Policy Background Paper no. 3
Published by Australian National University and the
MacArthur Foundation Asia Security Initiative
THERE IS some debate about whether multilateralism or bilateralism (including US military alliances) provides more effective approaches to security dilemmas facing East Asia. One might apply this question to the maritime security challenges in the region.
At least four interlocking layers of potential maritime conflict exist in East Asia today. These include: (1) territorial and sovereignty disputes over islands and atolls in the East and South China Seas; (2) disputes over undefined or overlapping maritime boundaries and legal jurisdiction issues; (3) threats to maritime safety and sea-lane security; and (4) military competition for sea control among major powers.
Most worrisome is the challenge of great power military competition. Combined, China’s increasing naval power, the vigorous interest of the US in asserting naval primacy, and the growing assertiveness of Japan pose serious challenges to the future security architecture of the Asia-Pacific. In particular, they threaten to undermine the cooperative security institutions and norms that have been painstakingly developed since the end of the Cold War. However, the most urgent security concerns relate to conflicting territorial claims among regional states.
CLAIMANT STATES’ APPROACHES TO MARITIME DISPUTES
To what extent have bilateral and multilateral approaches involving various claimant states succeeded or failed thus far in mitigating the region’s maritime conflicts? Bilateral–multilateral questions are especially relevant to the Spratlys disputes: China has become more adamant that these be resolved bilaterally whereas the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has pressed for a multilateral process. SinoVietnamese tensions, for example, have increased significantly, with China blocking Vietnam’s exploration activities and Vietnam seeking to “internationalize” the dispute.
In terms of the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute, multiple rounds of bilateral negotiations on demarcating the maritime boundaries have led not to delimitation but to a “principled consensus” where Japan and China have agreed to cooperate in a “transitional period.” There had been indications of both governments trying to downplay tensions but in September 2010, ill feelings escalated following the collision between a Chinese trawler and Japanese Coast Guard vessel, leading to large-scale protests.
MACARTHUR ASIA SECURITY INITIATIVE Policy Background Paper no. 3
Monday, August 29, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Keynote Address at the International Graduate Students Conference on "Asian Security"
Asian Center, University of the Philippines
13 August 2011
Introduction: Asian Security 30 years ago
The Asian Center is my alma mater and even now, my mother unit, where I continue to teach and which serves as my base for the research that I do. It was in Romulo Hall where I first developed a deep fascination with Asia, and a keen interest in the study of northeast Asia, and then eventually of China and things Chinese. That was over thirty years ago. I recall that as a young graduate student starting my Master of Arts in Asian Studies program in 1980, Japan was the most prosperous country in the region and it enjoyed much economic and cultural influence in the Philippines. It still does. Japan was a leader exercising soft power, back in the days when the concept of soft power had not yet been invented. China was then barely out of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution; it was in the earliest stages of economic reform and opening up, with much of the country and its people still described as 'poor and backward'. Korea was the strange and unfamiliar Hermit Kingdom, with minimal links to the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia itself was a region greatly preoccupied with conflict, with Vietnam occupying Cambodia and other kinds of social and political problems taking place within the various states. ASEAN referred to five rather than ten countries, and was functioning still as an institution intended to prevent its own members from engaging each other in armed confrontation. India was oblivious to the world beyond South Asia and beyond China, and the world was oblivious to India back then. The conflicts in the Middle East raged, with Israel invading Lebanon in 1982, and the Philippines paid attention because of the implications on conflict in Mindanao, but did not have to worry then about the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of OFWs, who had yet to discover the jobs that lay waiting there.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong are a well-organized and outspoken group, numbering well over 100,000. So well-organized that they have inspired and assisted workers from other Asian countries to follow in their footsteps in seeking better working conditions in the former colony. So outspoken and effective that they became the envy and even the model for some in the Hong Kong women’s movement and democracy circles, in a society where even under British colonial administration (up until 1997), independent and voluntary organizations – hallmarks of democracy and an active civil society - were not too well-known.
But the relationship of Filipino domestic workers with Hong Kong society is one recently fraught with ups and downs. Domestic helpers took some heat from the Hong Kong public following the bungled hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand last August 2010, in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed. Every now and then, there are outcries over proposals to increase the minimum wage for foreign domestic helpers, which falls far below the minimum wage for all other groups.