As more than 600 participants prepare to travel to our World Economic Forum on East Asia, which takes place in Manila, the Philippines, from 21-23 May, here’s a reading list to bring you up to speed on some of the issues underlying our discussions.

World Economic Forum Reports

How prepared are East Asian countries to bridge the digital divide? The Global Information Technology Report 2014 ranks the ability of economies to use network infrastructure to increase economic growth and create jobs.

Which island nation in Southeast Asia ranked second in our Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014? The report assesses the ability of countries to provide high levels of prosperity to their citizens.

Myanmar’s energy sector will be central to the country’s economic growth and development, according to our report on New Energy Architecture.

Economy 

The World Bank’s East Asian and Pacific Update sees 5 percent growth across the region (excluding China). But East Asia needs better training and education for its workforce, and – crucially – more opportunities for women.

The IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook says regional integration has been driving growth, but that those connections mean that shocks risk spreading more widely.

ASEAN’s biggest trading partner is China. But if China’s economy slows, will it drag East Asia down with it?

Indonesia is a testing ground for global relaunches. Both Nissan and BlackBerry have used its growing middle class as a consumer laboratory. But the benefits of growth are still not being felt by the country’s poorest, says The Economist.

Geopolitics

The shipping lanes of the South China Sea carry a quarter of global trade. The potential oil and gas reserves beneath its sea floor, and its abundant fisheries, make it a highly contested area. China regards its disputes with Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei as matters for bilateral negotiation. ASEAN has remained neutral. Territorial disputes offshore between China and Vietnam, have flared up within Vietnam, with violent consequences. The Second Thomas Shoal is another flashpoint.

The Malacca Strait sits between Malaysia and Indonesia. It is also critical to East Asia’s geopolitics. China is the world’s biggest oil importer, and the supertanker tonnage funnelling through the strait is triple the Suez Canal’s traffic, and fifteen times that transiting the Panama Canal.

News

Indonesia Q1 growth slowest in 4 years as political risks loom (Reuters)

Indonesia is the world’s 10th largest economy (Jakarta Post)

Malaysia says it’s on track to achieve high-income nation status (Bloomberg)

The Philippines’ strategic dilemma: between an eagle and a dragon (Al Jazeera)

The new US-Philippines defence agreement analysed. (The Diplomat

Philippines wins S&P upgrade as Aquino’s changes seen enduring (Bloomberg)

The Philippines could be running a smaller current-account surplus than believed (WSJ)

Can Thailand keep from falling apart? (Fortune)

Thailand: everything is broken (The Economist)

Author: Adrian Monck is Managing Director of Public Engagement at the World Economic Forum.

Image: A trader talks on a phone on the floor of the Philippine Stock Exchange. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo