SOUTHEAST ASIA – Retooling Democratic Good Governance (Coby Goldberg and Kristine Lee, CNAS)

Online and offline, illiberal governance technologies are proliferating across Southeast Asia. From the strained democracies of Indonesia and the Philippines to the one-party electoral state of Singapore and the military-ruled kingdom of Thailand, Southeast Asian governments are harnessing emerging technologies to more effectively surveil and control their populations. As Chinese technology companies emerge as dominant players in Southeast Asian markets, both shaping and meeting the needs of consumers and their governments alike, the region as a whole is bending toward a less free and open future—one less hospitable to America’s long-term commercial interests and democratic values. Yet, instead of acting as a counter-balancing force for democratic governance in the region, American companies are acting as accelerants of trends toward illiberalism, and a future in which Southeast Asian governance resembles China. The controversies surrounding the 2020 American election and presidential transition, meanwhile, have undercut the credibility of the United States’ ideological messaging across the globe.