East Asia since 2010 has been characterized by the rise of China and the relative decline of the U.S., and by a corresponding disorder as China has increasingly openly defied the game rules set by the erstwhile hegemon and begun tentatively to outline an alternative set of rules. The systemic consequence is a state of what Durkheim called anomie, a liminal period between one set of norms and another. In the context of anomie there has been heightened ideological or normative competition on the one hand and an increasing resort to power politics on the other. This state of affairs, and the corresponding shift in public opinions, has materialized with bewildering swiftness, clearly exacerbated by the Trump administration. But whatever the future of the trade war and the embattled Trump presidency, this is not purely a Trump phenomenon; it can be expected to last for as long as the underlying shift in the power balance that set it in motion remains unresolved.
Scholars at this conference from the U.S. and Asia will analyze the options open to the various East Asian actorsnot only China and the United States, but Russia, Japan, Taiwan, and the ASEAN states. At a time of a rebirth of power politics the first panel will focus on the kinetic or strategic dimension. This will necessarily involve a comparison of arms budgets and military capabilities of the various actors, but more importantly a discussion of their alliance choices, joint war games, arms sales and grand strategies.
The second panel will focus on attempts to expand influence peaceably via transnational identity revision, either using soft power or what has been termed sharp power involving the use of ethnic appeals, cyberpolitics,and other subversive if not necessarily illegal techniques. The purpose has been to reconfigure identities to accommodate emergent economic interests and political ambitions nonviolently.
The third panel will focus on political economy. On the one hand this will include domestic developmental trajectories of the various actors and on how they intersect or diverge, and on how they use economic statecraft to get what they want. On the other it will involve international and intraregional trade and investment flows and bilateral and multilateral attempts to manage economic and strategic relations through various forums (APEC, RCEP, ASEAN and its various affiliates, Chinas Belt and Road Initiative, the cluster of preferential trade agreements).
Timothy R. Heath
III. Political Economy
David M. Lampton