Past Events

China as a 'Post-Westphalian' Rising Power

A Seminar by Dr Lee Jones, Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Distinguished Fellow on Contemporary Southeast Asia for AY2014/2015

Friday, 30 January 2015, 11am-1pm
AS7 06-42, Research Division Seminar Room
The Shaw Foundation Building, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
National University of Singapore

This seminar explores how the transformation of contemporary statehood is conditioning the ‘rise’ of emerging powers, in terms of their internal policy formation and execution, and in terms of how their policies spur transformations of statehood beyond their borders. Many accounts of rising powers assume a timeless logic of rising and falling states. Comparisons drawn between Bismarck’s Germany and today’s China suggest these states are functionally identical and will thus behave similarly. This overlooks radical transformations in the nature of statehood since the nineteenth century, notably the emergence of regulatory states, decentralisation and multilevel and transnational modes of governance. The seminar explores how these changes are conditioning the ‘rise’ of China. Internal transformation leads to multiagency, multilevel contestation over policy, resulting in incoherent and externally provocative behaviour that is often misinterpreted as ‘Chinese aggression’. Meanwhile, powerful forces within the Chinese state are increasingly promoting the transformation of other states in order to secure their transnational interests, notably in neighbouring areas of Asia. The seminar explores these arguments with reference to China’s aid policy in the Southwest Pacific, confrontations in the South China Sea, and the Greater Mekong Subregion initiative.

 

Governing Borderless Threats: Southeast Asia's 'Haze' Crisis as a Non-Traditional Security Problem

A Seminar by Dr Lee Jones, Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Distinguished Fellow on Contemporary Southeast Asia for AY2014/2015

Thursday, 22 January 2015, 11am-1pm
AS7 06-42, Research Division Seminar Room
The Shaw Foundation Building, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
National University of Singapore

Today, much of the world is heavily preoccupied with non-traditional security (NTS) threats: border-spanning challenges that defy traditional, inter-state and military approaches, such as terrorism, pandemic diseases and environmental degradation. Despite the alleged seriousness of these threats, they elicit a baffling array of governance responses, ranging from full-scale securitisation and institutionalised management, to nothing at all in some cases. This presentation summarises the findings of a four-year research project and a forthcoming book, Governing Borderless Threats: Non-Traditional Security and the Politics of State Transformation (Cambridge University Press, 2015), which sought to explain how NTS threats are understood and managed in practice. The book argues that, rather than attempting to manage NTS problems through formal regional organisations, like ASEAN, the predominant approach involves efforts to transform the specific state apparatuses dealing with specific NTS issues in particular territories. This often involves networking them with agencies from other states, international organisations and non-governmental organisations across territorial borders, constructing flexible, functional and multilevel governance systems that better ‘fit’ the scale of the challenge. However, this state transformation process is promoted and resisted by competing coalitions of socio-political forces, rooted within political economy and social power relations. It is the struggles among these groups that dictate how these new modes of NTS governance operate in practice.

The presentation illustrates this approach using the case of Southeast Asia’s transboundary ‘haze’ problem. Here, the focus has not been constructing supranational authority over the haze for ASEAN, but transforming governance in Indonesia, the source of the problem. Reflecting their different interests and agendas, one loose coalition of forces, comprising environmental bureaucracies, NGOs and others, has sought to tackle this problem by rescaling the governance of land and forest fires to the regional level, whilst a contending coalition, comprising local elites and their corporate allies, has resisted this rescaling, seeking to keep governance local, so they can continue to burn land with impunity. The net outcome is a partially internationalised governance system, networking domestic agencies into regional networks and articulating regional regulatory standards for land management. However, the degree of internationalisation, and the governance system's operation in practice, have been heavily constrained by the interests and power of local state-business compacts, including transnational business interests originating in Malaysia and Singapore, significantly undermining its efficacy. The primitive accumulation strategy of burning land to establish palm oil (and other) plantations is thus enabled to continue.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Dean's Office, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences National University of Singapore

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