Early Expectations for the New Year – From our South-east Asia Director

By William Thomas, South-east Asia Director

This week, America made it official: on January 20th, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States.

The biggest question for many is: what will happen to US-China relations? In the near term, we should not expect much to change. While the Biden administration settles in and sorts its priorities, the existing tariffs and other trade limitations will likely remain in place for now. The new administration will probably address domestic coronavirus recovery and economic rebuilding before turning its focus to international affairs.

Anyone expecting a “reset” to the status quo ante of 2016 will be disappointed. While many of the senior members of the Biden administration were also part of President Obama’s team, the relationship between America and China has changed since then. At the same time, events here in the region – such as the shift of manufacturing facilities out of China and into South-east Asia – are not the sorts of things that get reversed simply because of an election. Given that America is likely to encourage a more multilateral strategy in its approach to China, some governments may feel even more pressure to find an effective balance between the two countries.

While the political landscape may change slowly, we should expect certain technological trends to accelerate. If the last year has shown us anything about the way we work, it’s that improved digital connectivity has many potential benefits for business performance, but also many challenges that must be addressed. Our January 19th panel on Computerised Cities offers a chance to explore the business and social implications of the Internet of Things, as we consider the impact on such issues as organisational resilience and workforce planning.

Other members-only events in January and February will explore topics that are more unique to particular markets. In Singapore we will discuss the development of the “Singapore core”, while in Kuala Lumpur our members will examine the changing retail environment in Malaysia. We hope that by hosting both regional and country-specific events, it will help our clients make better-informed decisions for business strategy in different markets.

As we flip the calendar from 2020 to 2021, we all hope for a better year ahead. Some of that is outside our control, but there is much we can do to set our new direction. Our goal is to help members make the best choices going forward, and we encourage you to join our conversations and get the most in-depth insights into the changing world around us.