Long criticized for its lackluster record in economic engagement with Southeast Asia, the US is now looking to bolster digital economy cooperation with the region as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy. Both sides have already engaged in several cooperation initiatives to strengthen Southeast Asia’s digital capacities. These actions/engagements aim to help the region capture the immense benefit and respond to potential socioeconomic disruptions brought by the digital economic boom. However, US-ASEAN cooperation will have to deal with two challenges. First, China has already established a comprehensive and prevalent presence in the region’s digital economy, from hard infrastructure and customer-facing businesses to developing digital standards. Second, Southeast Asia’s diversity in economic development leads to varied capacities among its members. These attributes carry certain security complications for Southeast Asia and the US in the long run. Addressing them will require both sides to further boost cooperation, particularly in shaping regional digital standards.
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Table of Contents
U.S.-ASEAN Cooperation on the Digital Economy
China’s Prevalent Presence in Southeast Asia’s Digital Economy
Southeast Asia’s Varied Digital Capacities
About the Author
Hanh Nguyen was a non-resident WSD-Handa fellow at Pacific Forum. She received her MA degree in International Relations at International Christian University, Tokyo. She was a research fellow under the Project for Human Resource Development by Japanese Grant Aid. Her research interests include Southeast Asia’s relations with great powers, Vietnam’s foreign policy and Indo-Pacific affairs. Hanh is the author of US-Vietnam Partnership in the post-COVID era: A recalibration towards intra-ASEAN integration (Pacific Forum, 2021) and Maritime capacity-building cooperation between Japan and Vietnam: A confluence of strategic interest (ISEAS Perspective, 2021). She is also the coauthor of Asymmetric interdependence and the selective diversification of supply chains (Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia, 2022), Canada’s Indo-Pacific priorities: Investing in a free and open digital economy and Digital connectivity in the Indo-Pacific: The potential for middle power cooperation on 5G technology (MacDonald-Laurier Institute, 2021) with Stephen Nagy. Her analysis also appeared in The Diplomat, Geopolitical Monitor, Lowly Institute and other platforms. She is also a Pacific Forum Young Leader.