11a. Describe the geographical differences between the mainland and insular regions of Southeast Asia
The South China Sea separates the mainland and insular regions of Southeast Asia. The mainland region of Southeast Asia includes Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar (formerly Burma), and the landlocked country of Laos. The insular region includes Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines, and Timor-Leste (East Timor). Both regions are predominantly tropical. The insular region is particularly vulnerable to the hazards associated with tectonic activity.
Three of the countries in the insular region span numerous islands and, in the case of Malaysia, straddle the mainland and insular regions. Malaysia extends from the Malay Peninsula in the west, across the South China Sea, to the island of Borneo in the east. Indonesia is the world's largest island country and includes over seventeen thousand islands. The Philippines includes over 7,500 islands. Given the challenges associated with governing a country separated by large bodies of water, some countries such as Indonesia have chosen to grant some provinces more autonomy.
Review the section on Physical Geography in Introducing the Realm.
The potential for trade motivated Portugal and Spain to reach Southeast Asia in the sixteenth century, followed by the Netherlands, Britain, and France. Japan sought more territory for its population, occupying much of Southeast Asia during World War II including Thailand, which was not colonized by European powers. Although Britain controlled Myanmar to the west and France controlled Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos to the east, Thailand was left as a buffer between the two.
There is evidence today of the influence of colonial powers in the realm of Southeast Asia in the following examples.
Review the section on Impact of Colonialism in Introducing the Realm.
Muslim traders from the Arabian Peninsula likely brought Islam to Indonesia prior to European colonization through spatial diffusion. Islam is also the dominant religion of Malaysia. Sunni Islam is the most common form practiced in these countries. Buddhism is the most commonly practiced religion among the people of the mainland region. These countries practice Theravada Buddhism, which is sometimes called Southern Buddhism, and is also practiced in Sri Lanka, a country in the realm of South Asia.
Globalization has blurred the differences between cultures as it becomes easier to move from one location to another regardless of distance. The insular region of Southeast Asia remains one of the exceptions. It is more difficult to move from island to island than it is to move within a large landmass. Thus, differences are more likely to remain intact and even increase. Diversity can, however, also thrive on a single island due to barriers in the physical geography, which can prevent movement. For example, the island of New Guinea, with the western portion under Indonesian control, is home to hundreds of ethnic groups.
Review the section on Cultural Introduction in Introducing the Realm.
Due to Southeast Asia's proximity to China, it is not surprising that more overseas Chinese live there than anywhere else. For example, more than 75% of Singapore's population and almost 25% of Malaysia's population are ethnically Chinese. Many Chinese fled the political division on mainland China between 1912 and 1949. The overseas Chinese population has maintained ties to their homeland, making economic connections possible in the age of globalization. Their ability to communicate in the languages of their homeland and their adopted country facilitates business opportunities.
Review the section on Overseas Chinese in Introducing the Realm.
As a site of competing colonial interests, Vietnam had long been pulled in different directions. By the time Vietnam defeated the French, there were, understandably, competing visions for how to move Vietnam forward, thus, preventing unification.
The Vietnam War lasted twenty years, ending in 1975 with the North Vietnamese taking Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), the capital of South Vietnam. In 1976, North and South Vietnam became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Since the war, Vietnam has recovered slowly. It has a mixed economy, with the government playing a key role in the country's economic development. Although Vietnam remains largely engaged in primary and secondary sector activities, it is undergoing a rural-to-urban migration shift with more tertiary sector activities including tourism. Its neighbors in the East Asian realm have turned to Vietnam as a source of cheap labor.
Review the section on Vietnam in The Mainland Countries.
Laos is a country of rugged, forested mountains and the only landlocked country in the realm of Southeast Asia. The Mekong River forms much of Laos' western border. Thus, most people live there to take advantage of the low relief and agricultural potential of the floodplain. The Mekong links Laos to the outside world and has tied it closely to its western neighbor, Thailand.
Although the Mekong mitigates some of Laos' isolation beyond its borders, connections within its borders are poor. The Vietnam War damaged what little infrastructure Laos had. The World Bank, among other organizations, is supporting Laos' efforts to improve electrical, water, sanitation, and communication infrastructure. China is helping Laos to increase rail access throughout the country.
Review the section on Laos in The Mainland Countries.
Cambodia was caught up in the Vietnam War due to its proximity to Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge, a Cambodian rebel faction espousing Communist ideology, gained the support of the Vietnamese communists to overthrow the government. Thus, the Khmer Rouge took advantage of the chaos of the Vietnam War to seize control of Cambodia. Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, fell to the Khmer Rouge shortly after the United States withdrew from Cambodia in 1975. Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, renamed Cambodia Democratic Kampuchea in 1976.
China's disastrous Great Leap Forward program inspired Pol Pot's vision for Democratic Kampuchea. When the Khmer Rouge took control, the cities were evacuated and the residents forced to live in the countryside to create an "agrarian utopia". Under Pol Pot's three-year reign of terror, intellectuals, ethnic minorities, and anyone who dissented were imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Although the international community largely condemned the Khmer Rouge regime, China continued to provide support.
Review the section on Cambodia in The Mainland Countries.
Thailand is an unusually shaped country with varied topography.
Thailand's landscape and climate make it a major rice exporter. Its tropical coastlines with numerous beaches are a popular destination for tourists.
Review the section on Thailand in The Mainland Countries.
Singapore has made the most of its geographic location by serving as an entrepôt, a port where goods are imported, stored, traded, and/or exported.
In addition to its role as an entrepôt, Singapore has also compensated for its size and lack of resources by focusing on manufacturing goods with high profit margins such as electronics.
Review the section on Singapore in The Insular Region.
Indonesia is an archipelago, a group of islands. It is the largest island country in the world by area and population. Its land area is comparable to Mexico's.
Indonesia's archipelagic geography and tropical location make it second only to Brazil in terms of biodiversity. Proximity to the Equator increases species diversity, and the remoteness of islands fosters the evolution of endemic species, species that are not found anywhere else in the world.
Indonesia's capital is Jakarta, which is on the island of Java. More than half of Indonesia's population lives on Java, making it the most populous island and one of the most densely populated places in the world. At 1,200 people per square kilometer, Java's population density is comparable to Bangladesh's. From the 1970s to the late 1990s, the Indonesian government sought to reduce the population of Java by relocating people to less populous islands.
Review the section on Indonesia in The Insular Region.
The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7,000 islands. The inhabited islands are home to many different ethnolinguistic groups and indigenous peoples. The ethnic diversity of the Philippines has also been influenced by immigrants from Spain, China, Japan, and the United States, among others. Thus, between its fragmented geography and ethnic diversity, the culture of the Philippines is necessarily rich.
The Philippines has attracted the attention of global corporations interested in business process outsourcing (BPO) because it is politically stable and there is a qualified labor force.
BPO can include a range of functions such as payment processing, technical support, and sales, among others. Many corporations from around the world are, for example, locating their call centers in the Philippines to take advantage of the cost savings. India and Singapore are also sites of offshore outsourcing.
Review the section on the Philippines in The Insular Region.
This vocabulary list includes terms that students need to know to successfully complete the final exam for the course.