Southeast Asia and Australia

This area is very diverse

– geographically, culturally and historically. It stretches from the Indochinese Peninsula, which comprises Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and parts of Malaysia, through the Indonesian archipelago with Indonesia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Brunei and the rest of Malaysia, all the way to Australia. The Philippine islands lie to the north. Further to the southeast are New Zealand and the islands of Oceania.

Geographically, the Indonesian archipelago and Australia form the dividing line between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.

The region’s ethnic, religious, historical and political characteristics are varied. Indonesia and Malaysia are predominantly Muslim, the Philippines is Catholic. Australia and New Zealand are Christian, and their populations are predominantly of European origin, whereas the people of Indochina are strongly influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism. Most countries in the region claim to be democracies. Vietnam remains a self-declared communist state, though it allows private property and a market-driven economy.

Economically, the differences are also significant. Singapore is extremely prosperous. Australia and New Zealand are well-to-do countries in the European style, albeit with some pockets of poverty. 

What all these countries have in common is their largest trading partner: China. Beijing’s assertive policymaking is the most important strategic issue in the region.

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