The ANU Southeast Asia Institute Research Seminar Series is a recurring seminar series that showcases the work of scholars within the ANU working on political, social and cultural issues in Southeast Asia, with the goal of encouraging greater exchange, collaboration and networking amongst the research community.

Roundtable on Southeast Asian countries' threat perception amid the intensifying great power competition

The announcement of AUKUS was emblematic of the intensifying great power competition and power recalibration in the Indo-Pacific region. Amid this changing strategic environment, Southeast Asian countries have started assessing their regional outlook and threat perception. Southeast Asian elites are under pressure to develop a strategy that both preserves their strategic autonomy and benefits from the great power rivalries.

This Southeast Asia Institute roundtable discussion aims to provide dialogue between scholars and practitioners on this development. This roundtable features two research presentations based on insights from elites' interviews and fieldwork.

Due to logistical limitations, please note that this event is by invitation only; if interested, please get in touch with Emirza Adi Syailendra at or Abdul Rahman Yacoob at

Presentation by Abdul Rahman Yacoob

Title: Australia, AUKUS and Southeast Asia: A case of strategic divergent, or an opportunity for closer deference relations?  


In September 2021, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States announced AUKUS, which is a new security partnership aiming to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific that is secure and stable. Australia’s participation in AUKUS demonstrates a strategic divergent with Southeast Asian states on managing the rise of China. For the former, China is a significant security threat that requires a military response. On the other hand, Southeast Asian’s position is that China’s rise should not be perceived only in a negative light – they have benefited from Beijing’s economic growth. Even those who have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea hold this position. Furthermore, the security and territorial of several Southeast Asian states are threatened not by China but by other actors. This presentation examines the strategic divergent between Australia and Southeast Asia and explores the opportunity for Australia to employ AUKUS as a means to enhance defence relations with the latter. 


Abdul Rahman Yaacob is currently a final-year PhD candidate at the National Security College (NSC) of The Australian National University (ANU). His work focuses specifically on Southeast Asian history and defence policy. Before joining NSC, Rahman worked with the Ministry of Home Affairs/Singapore Police Force, covering Command and Staff postings. He has received several awards, including the Commissioner of Police’s Commendation Award (Rejection of Bribe) and the Minister for Home Affairs’ Operational Excellence Award (Team). In 2021, he and his team won a grant from the Australian Army Research Centre to research Southeast Asia's security concerns. 

Presentation by Emirza Adi Syailendra

Title: Southeast Asian states' threat perception: Fundamental reassessment amid changing regional order


As the order in the region shifted, countries in the region started reassessing their regional outlook and threat perception, especially in the maritime domain. Against this backdrop, my remarks attempt to generate early observations on how we should make sense of Southeast Asian states' general unwillingness to view China as a threat even as they encounter grey-zoned activities in the maritime domain and coercive behaviour in the mainland. Unpacking the unwillingness of Southeast Asian states to view China as a threat allows us to generate a better understanding of how threat perception is proactively constructed and socially adjusted. The relational aspect of threat perception led to adopting the implicit theory that pushes against labelling China as a threat, which served as domestic-regional correction mechanisms––restraining domestic actors that sought to label China as a threat and persuading or patronising others who see China as a threat. I am grappling with two questions: How do we make sense of threat perception in this changing region when countries stay away from labelling others as a threat? How do they influence each other's threat perception amid the changing regional order? 


Emirza Adi Syailendra is a PhD candidate at the Strategic and Defence Study Centre at The Australian National University. He is an associate research fellow at the Indonesia Programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. He is a recipient of the 2022 ANU Malaysia–Australia Maritime Fellowship and is currently a fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), the National University of Malaysia (UKM).

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Event details

Event date

Thu, 27 Apr 2023, 3:30 - 5pm