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A Genealogy of Bamboo Diplomacy »

The Politics of Thai Détente with Russia and China

Authored by: Jittipat Poonkham
Publication date: January 2022
In 1975, M.R. Kurkrit Pramoj met Mao Zedong, marking the eventual establishment of diplomatic relations and a discursive rupture with the previous narrative of Communist powers as an existential threat. This book critically interrogates the birth of bamboo (bending with the wind) diplomacy and the politics of Thai détente with Russia and China in the long 1970s (1968–80). By 1968, Thailand was encountering discursive anxiety amid the prospect of American retrenchment from the Indo-Pacific region. As such, Thailand developed a new discourse of détente to make sense of the rapidly changing world politics and replace the hegemonic discourse of anticommunism. By doing so, it created a political struggle between the old and new discourses. Jittipat Poonkham also argues that bamboo diplomacy – previously seen as a classic and continual ‘tradition’ of Thai-style diplomacy – had its origins in Thai détente and has become the metanarrative of Thai diplomacy since then. Based on a genealogical approach and multi‑archival research, this book examines three key episodes of Thai détente: Thanat Khoman (1968–71), M.R. Kukrit Pramoj (1975–76), and General Kriangsak Chomanan (1977–80). This transformation was represented in numerous diplomatic/discursive practices, such as ping‑pong diplomacy, petro‑diplomacy, trade and cultural diplomacy, and normal visits.

East Asia Forum Quarterly: Volume 13, Number 4, 2021 »

Publication date: December 2021
Surrounded by great powers, South Korea has weathered the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic in its own unique way. Aspirations for greater autonomy and self-reliance are also driving significant changes to Seoul’s political and security postures amid intensifying regional tensions, and serve as a backdrop as South Koreans elect their next president in early 2022. This East Asia Forum Quarterly examines how South Korea is confronting the big challenges of our time, including public health, green energy, political polarisation, minority rights, denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula and the global rise of K-pop.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 6, Issue 2, 2021 »

Publication date: December 2021
Since its announcement in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become the main lens through which both observers and stakeholders trace China’s global footprint. Whether cheered on as a new engine of economic development in a fraught and increasingly unequal world or frowned on as a masterplan through which the Chinese authorities are attempting to establish global hegemony, the infrastructure component of the BRI has become such an important frame in discussions of Global China that less tangible aspects that are not in its purview tend to be lost or overlooked. One of these neglected dimensions is China’s long history of international engagement aimed at building economic, political, social, and cultural ties in both the Global North and the Global South. Frequently, we tend to forget how the international presence of Chinese actors we are currently observing did not just happen overnight, but was built on decades of experience of China’s interaction with the rest of the world. In the belief that examining these historical precedents can help us shed light on both the continuities and the discontinuities in the practices of today and that only by digging into the dirt of history can we excavate the roots of the dynamics we are witnessing, this issue is dedicated to the ‘archaeologies of the BRI’.

Xinjiang Year Zero »

Publication date: 2021
Since 2017, the Chinese authorities have detained hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in ‘reeducation camps’ in China’s northwestern Xinjiang autonomous region. While the official reason for this mass detention was to prevent terrorism, the campaign has since become a wholesale attempt to remould the ways of life of these peoples—an experiment in social engineering aimed at erasing their cultures and traditions in order to transform them into ‘civilised’ citizens as construed by the Chinese state. Through a collection of essays penned by scholars who have conducted extensive research in the region, this volume sets itself three goals: first, to document the reality of the emerging surveillance state and coercive assimilation unfolding in Xinjiang in recent years and continuing today; second, to describe the workings and analyse the causes of these policies, highlighting how these developments insert themselves not only in domestic Chinese trends, but also in broader global dynamics; and, third, to propose action, to heed the progressive Left’s call since Marx to change the world and not just analyse it. ‘Xinjiang Year Zero provides an analysis of the processes of dispossession being experienced by Uyghurs and other indigenous peoples of China’s Uyghur region that is sorely needed today. Most politicians and their followers today, whether on the left or the right, view what is happening to the peoples of this region through a twentieth-century lens steeped in dichotomies that are obsolete in describing the nature of states today—those of capitalism vs socialism and democracy vs totalitarianism. The contributors to this volume explore what is happening in Xinjiang in the context of the twenty-first century’s racialised and populist-fuelled state power, global capitalist exploitation, and ubiquitous surveillance technology. At the same time, they invite the reader to reflect on how the processes of dispossession in the Uyghur region during the twenty-first century are repeating the colonial practices of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that have shaped our current global system of inequality and oppression. The result offers an analysis of what is happening in Xinjiang that emphasises its interconnectedness to what is happening around us everywhere in the world. If you believe that the repression in this region is a fabrication to ‘manufacture consent’ for a cold war between the “West” and China, you need to read this book. Afterwards, you will understand that if you want to stop a return to the twentieth-century geopolitical conflicts embodied in the idea of a cold war, you must establish solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of China’s northwest and call for the end to the global processes fuelling their dispossession both inside China and outside.’ — Sean R. Roberts, Director of International Development Studies, The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, and author of The War on the Uyghurs ‘Xinjiang Year Zero provides a highly readable and utterly necessary account of what is happening in Xinjiang and why. By showing how the mass detentions of Uyghurs and other Xinjiang Muslims are linked to both global capitalism and histories of settler colonialism, the edited book offers new ways of understanding the situation and thus working toward change. A must-read not only for those interested in contemporary China, but also for anyone who cares about digital surveillance and dispossession around the globe.’ — Emily T. Yeh, University of Colorado Boulder, author of Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development ‘The crisis in Xinjiang has engendered its own crisis of interpretation and action at a time of growing geopolitical rivalry: how to condemn the atrocities without supporting hawkish voices, particularly among US politicians, who seek to Cold War-ise the US relationship with “Communist China”? How to critique China for colonialism, racism, assimilationism, extra-legal internment, and coerced labour when many Western nations are built on a history of those same things? Xinjiang Year Zero not only provides non-specialists a thorough, readable, up-to-date account of events in Xinjiang. This much-needed book also offers a broader framing of the crisis, drawing comparisons to settler colonialism elsewhere and revealing direct connections to global capitalism and to the rise of technological surveillance everywhere.’ — James A. Millward, Georgetown University, author of Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang

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New Dimensions of Connectivity in the Asia-Pacific »

Publication date: November 2021
There is no bigger policy agenda in the East Asian region than connectivity. Costs of international connectivity are indeed falling, in the movement of goods, services, people and data, leading to greater flows, and to the reorganisation of business and the emergence of new forms of international transactions. There are second-round effects on productivity and growth, and on equity and inclusiveness. Participating in trade across borders involves significant set-up costs and, if these costs are lowered due to falling full costs of connectivity, more firms will participate, which is a driver of productivity growth and innovation at the firm level. Connectivity investments are linked to poverty reduction, since they reduce the costs of participating in markets. This volume includes chapters on the consequences of changes in both physical and digital connectivity for trade, for the location of economic activity, for forms of doing business, the growth of e-commerce in particular, and for the delivery of new services, especially in the financial sector. A study of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is also included. These studies are preceded by an assessment of the connectivity performance in the Asia-Pacific region and followed by a discussion of impediments to investment in projects that contribute to productivity. The collection as a whole provides the basis for a series of recommendations for regional cooperation. The Pacific Trade and Development (PAFTAD) conference series has been at the forefront of analysing challenges facing the economies of East Asia and the Pacific since its first meeting in Tokyo in January 1968.

China’s Challenges in Moving towards a High-income Economy »

Edited by: Ligang Song, Yixiao Zhou
Publication date: September 2021
With its per capita income surpassing US$10,000, China has now drawn up ambitious plans to further lift its income to the level of developed countries. Yet various constraints need to be overcome if China is to build on the achievements of the last 40 years and further boost its growth potential. Besides these constraints, the year 2020 saw human societies hit heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economy caught off guard and dipped into recessions caused by lockdown measures for controlling the spread of the pandemic. Nations around the world have experienced grave loss of human life and lockdown measures have knocked economies from their normal growth trajectories. Even as the pandemic continues to unfold, all signs point to China as being the first major economy to have emerged out of the crisis. But many questions remain. Has the Chinese economy emerged from the pandemic crisis relatively unscathed? What are the long-term prospects for its economy? This year’s Update book, China’s Challenges in Moving towards a High-income Economy, explores the challenges faced by the Chinese economy in the transition towards a high-income economy, including agricultural development, finance and fiscal system reform, RMB internationalisation, trends in urbanisation, as well as topics related to innovation, corporate sector development and market competition. China’s growth experience has been full of exciting changes and important lessons for reform and structural changes, and this year’s China Update is again the way to gain insights into these.

Made in China Journal: Volume 6, Issue 1, 2021 »

Publication date: July 2021
In the spring of 2021, China’s central authorities issued a policy that seeks to change norms of China’s civil society that have been established over the past 30 years. At a moment that portends a closing of space for unregistered NGOs and a possible shift in the ways NGOs can emerge, evolve and cooperate with other social and state entities, we thought it important to look back to revisit the development of China’s civil society over the past decades. Not only is this exercise important in enabling us to understand the shifts now taking place, but it also reminds us of the possibilities that once were, and the possible futures that may be. With this issue we wanted to bring together practitioners, whose experience of running or participating in organisations and initiatives is invaluable both in and of itself, but also in helping us to reflect. We sought to bring their insights together with those of scholars who also have a deep interest, and often practical experience, in China’s organised civil society, studying its different aspects and dynamics. We hoped, too, to capture something of the vibrant diversity of organised civil society during its early (re-)emergence in the 1990s and to remember, as best we could, some of the early pioneers and possibilities.

Crisis »

Edited by: Jane Golley, Linda Jaivin, Sharon Strange
Publication date: April 2021
The year 2020 was marked by a series of rolling crises. The Australian wildfires at the start of the year were a catastrophic sign of the global climate crisis. Xi Jinping’s announcement in September that the People’s Republic of China would become carbon neutral by 2060 could help alleviate the crisis, but China has to fix its coal problem first. The big story was, of course, the global COVID-19 pandemic. Appearing to originate in a Wuhan wet market, by year’s end the pandemic had claimed nearly 2 million lives worldwide, put whole countries into lockdown, and sent economies around the world tumbling into recession. China itself successfully suppressed the disease at home and recorded positive economic growth for the year — proving, at least according to the Chinese Communist Party, the ‘superiority of the socialist system’. Not everyone was convinced, with persistent questions about the CCP’s initial cover up of the outbreak, and how the lack of transparency helped it become a pandemic in the first place. The China Story Yearbook 2020: Crisis surveys the multiple crises of the year of the Metal Rat, including the catastrophic mid-year floods that sparked fears about the stability of the Three Gorges Dam. It looks at how Chinese women fared through the pandemic, from the rise in domestic violence to portraits of female sacrifice on the medical front line to the trolling of a famous dancer for being childless. It also examines the downward-spiralling Sino-Australian relationship, the difficult ‘co-morbidities’ of China’s relations with the US, the end of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong, the simmering border conflict with India, and the rise of pandemic-related anti-Chinese racism. The Yearbook also explores the responses to crisis of, among others, Daoists, Buddhists, and humourists — because when all else fails, there’s always philosophy, prayer, and laughter.

East Asia Forum Quarterly: Volume 13, Number 1, 2021 »

Publication date: March 2021
Few American administrations in living memory face as arduous a set of domestic and external policy challenges as that led by President Joseph R. Biden. What faces the new team in Washington is nothing short of herculean: arrest the scourge of COVID-19, grow the economy and begin once more to address the historic grievances of racial injustice and socioeconomic inequality. How it handles those tasks will profoundly affect its capacity to prosecute an effective foreign policy. This issue of the Quarterly explores the monumental foreign policy challenges in Asia that await the Biden administration. Our contributors ponder the fate of the US–China trade war, the limits to achieving an ambitious national climate policy, the ongoing challenges on the Korean peninsula, in South and Southeast Asia, and the likely financial constraints on a more forward-leaning US military posture.
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The China Alternative »

Changing Regional Order in the Pacific Islands

Publication date: March 2021
In this collection, 17 leading scholars based in Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and China analyse key dimensions of the changing relationship between China and the Pacific Islands and explore the strategic, economic and diplomatic implications for regional actors. The China Alternative includes chapters on growing great power competition in the region, as well as the response to China’s rise by the US and its Western allies and the island countries themselves. Other chapters examine key dimensions of China’s Pacific engagement, including Beijing’s programs of aid and diplomacy, as well as the massive investments of the Belt and Road Initiative. The impact of China’s rivalry for recognition with Taiwan is examined, and several chapters analyse Chinese communities in the Pacific, and their relationships with local societies. The China Alternative provides ample material for informed judgements about the ability of island leaders to maintain their agency in the changing regional order, as well as other issues of significance to the peoples of the region. ‘China’s “discovery” of the diverse Pacific islands, intriguingly resonant of the era of European explorers, is impacting on this too-long-overlooked region through multiple currents that this important book guides us through.’ —Rowan Callick, Griffith University ‘The China Alternative is a must-read for all students and practitioners interested in understanding the new geopolitics of the Pacific. It assembles a stellar cast of Pacific scholars to deeply explore the impact of the changing role of China on the Pacific islands region. Significantly, it also puts the Pacific island states at the centre of this analysis by questioning the collective agency they might have in this rapidly evolving strategic context.’ —Greg Fry, The Australian National University