This collection is the first in a book series emanating from a broad research venture titled “Floating Frontiers”, supported by ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute Director Tan Chin Tiong in 2012.
The attitude this project adopts is to consider Southeast Asia as a maritime phenomenon in the crucial period when regionalism has become a necessary strategy used by governments in the region to counteract and negotiate strong global forces bearing upon them. Applying a cross-border and generally sub-national approach allows our researchers to gather facts that are not immediately shaped by national borders and budgets, and to analyse their findings in ways that do not deny the sub-regional and extra-national nature of present-day economics and culture.
Three areas for research were identified by ISEAS in 2012. All of them involve parts of Indonesia and Malaysia, while Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines are respectively included in each of these sub-projects. The first — and the handsome book you hold in your hand is the product of this focus — is on Singapore-Johor- Riau. This so-called SIJORI Cross-Border Region studies interactions between Singapore, the Malaysian state of Johor, and the new Indonesian Province of the Riau Islands. Second is the Sulu/Celebes Seas region where the coastlines of Sabah, the Southern Philippines and Sulawesi are the object of study and analysis. Third is the Andaman Sea and its coastlines. Other studies of maritime Southeast Asia are being planned.
We proudly present this first volume for your reading pleasure. Much dedicated work was put into it by all involved, especially the editors, Francis Hutchinson and Terence Chong, and important trends and patterns are captured here within, in text and in maps.
Since the 1980s, a key segment in Singapore's economic development strategy has been to promote the relocation of land- and labour-intensive activities to offshore locations. The two nearby territories of Johor and the Riau Islands have been the recipients of much of this investment. But that is only a small part of the story.
Facilitated by common cultural references, a distant shared history, and intricate cross-border business networks, the interactions between the three have multiplied and grown deeper. On the economic front, localized production chains link firms based in Singapore with these neighbouring territories and people move across the borders frequently to consume or provide goods and services.