Transnational Asia and Regional Networks: Toward a New Political Economy of East Asia

Abstract

This article aims to examine the dynamics of the East Asian political economy and the new regional environments over the past two decades. It puts forth two main propositions. First, the predominant nation–state framework in analyzing the political economy of the East Asian region, while remaining indispensable in its own right, has become inadequate to interpret the profound transformations resultant from heightened pace of cross-border movements of people, practices, ideas and capital. The geo-cultural concept of “Transnational Asia” is proposed as an alternative devise to fill in the gap neglected by the mainstream nation–state-oriented literature. Second, by going beyond the conventional state–society dichotomy and the rigid theoretical divide between statism and institutionalism, I argue that transnational network and regional governance serve as bridges to these divides and as useful analytical tools in deciphering the new dynamics of the East Asian political economy. In its extensive and multilayered interactions with transnational networks, the developmental state has been increasingly supplemented by the networked state which operates both within and without the nation–state boundaries through a variety of interconnected mechanisms.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    According to Ramo (2004), the former Foreign Editor of Time magazine who first coined the term in 2004, “China’s new development approach is driven by a desire to have equitable, peaceful high-quality growth, critically speaking, it turns traditional ideas like privatization and free trade on their heads. It is flexible enough that it is barely classifiable as a doctrine… Change, newness and innovation are the essential words of power in this consensus.” It has been generally agreed that the so-called China Model of Development has been characterized by three main institutional arrangements, a strong government, a development-oriented strategy that is mainly based upon gradual reform, and simultaneous internal reform and external opening-up (e.g., Kurlantzick 2007; Breslin 2009). For a more detailed examination of the Beijing Consensus and China model of development, see Cao (2005) and Bell (2015).

  2. 2.

    “China Tops Indonesian Head’s Agenda,” New York Times, 24 October 1999; Lianhe Zaobao, 6 December 1999.

  3. 3.

    “Mahathir Promotes China Model as Alternative to Democracy,” Today, 19 October 2010.

  4. 4.

    Xinhua News Agency, “China, ASEAN see closer economic, trade ties”, last modified 10 July, 2017. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-07/10/c_136432613.htm.

  5. 5.

    “China, S Korea and Japan triangle reinforced after summit”, China Daily, last modified 3 November, 2015. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2015livisitrok/2015-11/03/content_22361154.htm.

  6. 6.

    “zhongguo-dongmeng youyi lijiumixin [The friendship between China and ASEAN is timeless]”, People’s Daily, last modified 18 February, 2016. http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/2016-02/18/content_5042854.htm.

  7. 7.

    Ministry of Finance, “Trade Statistics of Japan”, accessed 11 January, 2018. http://www.customs.go.jp/toukei/info/index_e.htm.

  8. 8.

    For instance, within just a few months leading to February 2009, New Delhi, had launched 17 investigations into imports from China, 10 of which were anti-dumping probes, and these had imposed import restrictions on goods worth $2 billion and included textiles, steel and petrochemicals as well as toys. See “China-India Trade War Looms,” Vancouver Sun, February. 16, 2009; Zhongguo Jingyin Bao, February 15, 2009.

  9. 9.

    The changing international relationship in East Asia, including Sino-American and Sino-Japanese vying for regional leadership on diplomatic and security arrangements, is too complex to discuss here. See for example Shambaugh (2005), Keller and Rawski (2007), Chung (2009), Goh (2013).

  10. 10.

    International Financial News, “Liuxue guiguo renshu 2017nian jiangda 66.6 wan [The number of returning Chinese students educated overseas will reach over 666 thousand in 2017]”, Xinhua Net. http://news.xinhuanet.com/finance/2015-06/29/c_127961858.htm.

  11. 11.

    “Birth and fertility”, Department of Statistics Singapore, accessed 13 January 12, 2018. http://www.tablebuilder.singstat.gov.sg/publicfacing/createDataTable.action?refId=13273.

  12. 12.

    For example Lu Zong, “Xin Yimin Yi Ruxiang Shuishu” [New Migrants Should be Assimilated to the Host Society,” Lianhe Zaobao, February 12, 2003; “Lao Yimin Yin Jiena Xin Yimin” [Old Immigrants Should Accept New Migrants], Lianhe Zaobao, March 5, 2007; “Foreigners Issue Dominates NUS Forum,” Today, November 4, 2010.

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Acknowledgements

Research for this paper is funded by the Singapore Ministry of Education AcRF Tier-2 Grant entitled “Transnational Knowledge Transfer and Dynamic Governance in Comparative Perspective” (MOE2016-T2-02-87) and a NTU Strategici Initiative (SG200: Heritage, Identity, and Progress), which are gratefully acknowledged. The author would also like to thank Ma Sirui for her capable research assistance in the final stage of the preparation for submission as well as editor of the East Asian Community Review and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The author is solely responsible for the views and any remaining errors in this essay.

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Liu, H. Transnational Asia and Regional Networks: Toward a New Political Economy of East Asia. East Asian Community Rev 1, 33–47 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s42215-018-0003-7

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Keywords

  • East Asia
  • Transnational Asia
  • Developmental state
  • Networked state
  • Transnationalism