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Defying Beijing »

Societal Resistance to the Belt and Road in Myanmar

Authored by: Debby Chan
Publication date: June 2024
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to construct a Sino-centric transcontinental infrastructure network in Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond. Within this initiative, the China–Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) is a vital strategic component. The shortcut to the Indian Ocean seeks to improve China’s energy security and facilitate trade. Defying Beijing: Societal Resistance to the Belt and Road in Myanmar shows how Myanmar was able to capitalise on Chinese BRI ambitions to achieve its own desired outcomes during the country’s political liberalisation in the 2010s. Belying the asymmetrical relationship between these two nations, the Myitsone hydropower dam was suspended, the Letpadaung copper mine’s contract was renegotiated, and the Kyaukphyu deep seaport project was downsized. China offered concessions to Myanmar instead of pressuring it to honour those signed agreements. Contrasting a common proposition that US-Myanmar rapprochement disrupted the BRI projects in Myanmar, Defying Beijing argues that the rise of new foreign policy actors – citizens – made project continuation costlier for Naypyidaw in the course of political liberalisation in the 2010s. Naypyidaw was pressured to renegotiate terms with Beijing in the wake of social outcry in the country. Defying Beijing advances our understanding of Chinese–Myanmar BRI relations and demonstrates how citizens can change the course of events of BRI cooperation despite oppressive political environments and an imbalanced bargaining structure. In post-coup Myanmar, Naypyidaw’s policy options were not conditioned by public opinion or protests; nonetheless, armed resistance has posed new domestic constraints in the CMEC’s implementation. Clearly, bilateral economic agreements without citizens’ endorsement are fraught with legitimacy problems and instabilities.

China’s New Era »

Publication date: June 2024
According to Communist Party discourse, China’s ‘New Era’ began when Xi Jinping was anointed Party boss in 2012. The shape of this New Era became eminently clear in 2023 when Xi commenced his third five-year term as General Secretary of the Party, a fortification of one-man authoritarian rule unprecedented in post-Mao China. Under Xi, the Party has expanded its influence over government, the economy and society. The Party-State is now more Party than State. The year 2023 saw other ‘new eras’ for China as well. Despite initial optimism sparked by the end of COVID-19 restrictions in late 2022, the Chinese economy in 2023 was buffeted by continuing property sector woes, record unemployment, and an unfolding local government debt crisis. Globally, China adopted a series of new and ambitious diplomatic initiatives to woo the Global South and amplify its voice on the world stage. The China Story Yearbook 2023: China’s New Era provides informed perspectives on these and other important stories that will resonate for years to come.

A Team of Five Million? »

The 2020 ‘Covid-19’ New Zealand General Election

Publication date: 2024
New Zealand was one of a handful of countries that held a national election in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Its policy response stood out as remarkably successful. Indeed, several years on from the onset of the crisis, in 2023 New Zealand still retained a record of no excess deaths. While New Zealanders were voting on October 17, 2020, their country had only recorded 25 confirmed deaths out of a population of five million. Then, support for the government’s crisis management was at its height. Labour, the leading party in the incumbent coalition government, secured a historic election victory. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had taken up the metaphor of the New Zealand people as ‘a team of five million’ facing the COVID-19 threat together. This book seeks to explain the success of the government’s strategy through an analysis of the election campaign and outcome. The authors also address the limits of this approach and the extent to which some voters felt alienated rather than connected with the ‘team’. The election outcome was a big short-term swing of the electoral pendulum. It did not generate a reset of the party system. Three years on, as the 2023 election loomed into sight, the party system looked much as it did prior to the pandemic and Labour’s success in 2020 was about to be dramatically reversed.

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East Asia Forum Quarterly: Volume 16, Number 1, 2024 »

Publication date: April 2024
As India charts its post-colonial journey, its pursuit of great-power status intensifies. This issue of East Asia Forum Quarterly delves into India's regional and global positioning, exploring avenues to leverage its economic, demographic and geopolitical advantages. Key insights highlight India's subordinate role to China in the Asia-Pacific, the need for job creation in manufacturing, revamp education and seize opportunities in global manufacturing. As India heads to the polls, its future trajectory hinges on addressing these complexities.
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Political and Social Control in China »

The Consolidation of Single-Party Rule

Publication date: March 2024
During the past decade Xi Jinping has reasserted the Chinese Communist Party’s dominance of state and society, tightening political and social controls to consolidate the Party’s monopoly on political power in China. This volume brings leading China experts together to examine the changing mechanics of authoritarian rule in China, and the Party’s systematic efforts to neutralise potential threats. The book examines critical but little understood changes to the architecture of state, which enables more effective top-down rule and the efficient operation of an increasingly professional bureaucracy. It also explores the policies and mechanisms the Party has used to squash dissent and prevent criticisms. This volume will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand how the CCP has consolidated its rule at home and how it relates to the Party’s global ambitions for China’s great national rejuvenation.

Mandates and Missteps »

Australian Government Scholarships to the Pacific – 1948 to 2018

Authored by: Anna Kent
Publication date: February 2024
Mandates and Missteps is the first comprehensive history of Australian government scholarships to the Pacific, from the first scheme in 1948 to the Australia Awards of 2018. The study of scholarships provides a window into foreign and education policy making, across decades, and the impact such policies have had on individuals and communities. This work demonstrates the broad role these scholarships have played in bilateral relationships between Australia and Pacific Island territories and countries. The famed Colombo Plan is here put in its proper context within international aid and international education history. Australian scholarship programs, it is argued, ultimately reflect Australia, and its perception of itself as a nation in the Pacific, more than the needs of Pacific Island nations. Mandates and Missteps traces Australia’s role as both a coloniser in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and a participant in the process of decolonisation across the Pacific. This study will be of interest to students and scholars of international development, international education and foreign policy.

Redeveloping China’s Villages in the Twenty-First Century »

The Dilemmas of Policy Implementation

Authored by: Lior Rosenberg
Publication date: January 2024
Implementing national policies is a crucial function of the local Chinese bureaucracy and an indispensable part of Beijing’s overall state capacity. Yet the specifics of how and why local officials interpret and implement such policies have so far escaped detailed attention. In Redeveloping China’s Villages in the Twenty-First Century, Lior Rosenberg fills this gap by examining the national Village Redevelopment Program, one of China’s most significant policies of recent decades to promote rural change. Based on Rosenberg’s on-site research, Redeveloping China’s Villages in the Twenty-First Century investigates the Village Redevelopment Program’s implementation in both the industrialised county of Chenggu, in Shandong province, and the predominantly agricultural county of Beian, in Anhui province. At the book’s heart is a puzzle: the program was supposed to prioritise poorer villages, but in both Chenggu and Beian—despite being carried out in surprisingly divergent ways—it has subsidised improved infrastructure and services in already industrialised and prosperous villages, while leaving behind poorer ones. In explaining this outcome, Rosenberg elaborates on the larger economic, political and social environment in which Chinese local officials operate, as well as the pressures they face from above. He analyses the dual role played by higher-level authorities, as both policy enablers and thwarters in a system that sanctifies commandism but where the distinction between principals and agents is blurred.

After the Coup »

Myanmar’s Political and Humanitarian Crises

Publication date: December 2023
The coup in Myanmar on 1 February 2021 abruptly reversed a decade-long flirtation with economic and political freedoms. The country has since descended into civil war, the people have been plunged back into conflict and poverty, and the state is again characterised by fragility and human insecurity. As the Myanmar people oppose the regime and fight for their rights, the international community must find ways to act in solidarity. There is an urgent need for new policy settings and for practical engagement with local partners and recipient groups. The contributors to After the Coup offer timely insights into ways international actors can try to reduce the suffering of millions of citizens who are again being held hostage by a brutal and self-serving regime. Chapters analyse topics including coercive statecraft, international justice, Rakhine State (Rohingya) dynamics, pandemic weaponisation, higher education, non-state welfare and aid delivery, activism from exile, self-determination and power sharing in the National Unity Government’s alternative constitution, and the roles of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

East Asia Forum Quarterly: Volume 15, Number 4, 2023 »

Publication date: November 2023
It’s back: the past decade has seen a remarkable resurgence of industrial policy in the developed world. Geopolitical fragmentation and resultant suspicions of international trade, the politically induced adoption of second-best industrial policies to address carbon emissions, and the use of manufacturing incentives sparked by fears of deindustrialisation and widening inequality risk tit-for-tat protectionism and further splintering of the global economy. This issue of East Asia Forum Quarterly examines what the new enthusiasm for industrial policy activism means for the global system and Asian economies: exploring its effects on the ability of emerging Asian economies’ to break into manufacturing in global value chains; investigating how measures aimed at encouraging domestic processing of raw materials affect the stability of policy environments and green industrialisation; detailing and comparing the experiences of major regional economies with policy developments in semiconductor and electric vehicle manufacturing and renewable energy; and appraising industrial policy’s effects on smaller economies and the rules-based trading system from a global perspective.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 8, Issue 1, 2023 »

Publication date: November 2023
The year 2023 began with a series of jolts in China, as the government abruptly rolled back its notoriously strict pandemic measures following countrywide protests in late 2022. While external popular perceptions saw China as being uniformly locked down for the first years of the pandemic, the reality was that the country’s pandemic governance was unevenly applied and varied substantially from place to place. The result was mixed—and often even contradictory—attempts to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2, with vastly differentiated experiences on the ground. While heterogeneous and fragmented governance in China is nothing new—and indeed is the basis of how most scholars understand policy implementation in the country—the pandemic nevertheless produced patterns of governance that were at times surprising, while also reinforcing previous trends. This issue of the Made in China Journal examines patterns of pandemic governance and the subjectivities associated with living through lockdown and the ever-present possibility of quarantine.