Cluster I: International Relations in Asia

Asian Regionalism

When I first started conducting research for my book on Asian regional architecture in 2010, an abundance of scholarship on Asian regionalism already existed. Most studies were dominated by constructivist accounts of East Asian regionalism. Overtime, I sensed that the hype on Asian regionalism had declined. I decided to examine the decline in the narrative of East Asian regionalism in both academic and policy discourse in a study published in International Relations of the Asia-Pacific. A second related paper (with Aoqi Wu), explores Chinese conceptions of Asian regionalism, and investigates how narratives of Asian regionalism have shifted in Chinese discourse. I pay particular attention to the BRI and Chinese-based or led institutions such as the SCO, AIIB, and CICA. A third paper (with Stephanie Hofmann) compares “regime complexity” in Europe and Asia looks specifically at the rise of overlapping regional security institutions. I also have a working paper that applies the “new institutionalisms” literature to Asian regionalism arguing how and why historical institutionalism better explains the development of Asia’s regional architecture compared to rational and sociological institutionalism.

Asian Security and Regional Order

Since 2008, I have regularly offered a graduate seminar on Asian security. I try to follow major issues that relate to Asian regional order, US-Sino relations, US alliances and grand strategy, and other ongoing security problems including historical antagonism and Japan-Korea relations, China’s rise and Asian security order, and North Korea denuclearization. Drawing on conversations from my first Asian security class in 2008, I (unsuccessfully) tried to publish a paper about polarity and Asian security. The paper originally highlighted the vacuousness of polarity as a material concept, and argued instead for a relational understanding of Asian security. I later teamed up with a former student, Van Jackson, to focus more on the relational approach to Asian security in a working paper.

In my first and second monographs, I discuss the idea of an elite consensus, or an alliance consensus, regarding US bilateral alliances in Asia. I focus more on elites in Asia rather than the US, even though I believe the consensus exists on both sides of the Pacific. A working paper I wrote in 2009 examined the concept of “security consensus,” how it is derived, and its impact during periods of alliance crisis. The idea of “elite consensus” has attracted a much larger following over the years in relation to liberal internationalism and the foreign policy “blob.” I plan to revise the paper, connecting it to broader debates in US foreign policy restraint and critiques about Asian alliances. I may also parse out a separate, shorter piece about the origins of US bilateral alliances if I can find an appropriate venue for it (i.e. book chapter, short book, or peer-review article). I did team up with my close graduate school friend and occasional co-author, Stephanie Hofmann to examine alliance flexibility and resilience comparing US alliances in Europe and Asia in a paper published in European Journal of International Relations.

Residing in the Philippines during 2020-21, I have become interested in issues relevant to Philippine foreign policy as well. In a working paper with Enrico Gloria at UP-Diliman, we examine Chinese influence in the Philippines and explain the ineffectiveness of Chinese public diplomacy at the mass level.  I have also written about the US-Philippine alliance, including negotiations regarding the Visiting Forces Agreement in the Washington Post monkey cage blog.

Indo-Pacific Strategy

Although I prefer using the concept Asia-Pacific rather than the Indo-Pacific, I anticipate conducting further research on the significance of the Indo-Pacific region and how it affects the future trajectory of Asia’s regional architecture in light of great power competition.  More broadly, I am interested in the narrative and framing of the Indo-Pacific and its geopolitical implications. How do countries define and interpret the Indo-Pacific? Why is it embraced by some actors, and not by others? How does it redefine our understanding of regional order?

With financial support from the Korea Foundation, one ongoing project addresses the US-South Korea alliance and synergies between the US Indo-Pacific strategy and South Korea’s New Southern Policy.  In a related paper, I also examine South Korea’s reticence in embracing the Indo-Pacific concept. My preliminary findings appeared in an online report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in July 2020 under the title, South Korea and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. I am also preparing a paper with Kei Koga examining the divergence between South Korea and Japan in their Indo-Pacific strategies, and another policy paper on US-South Korea relations in the context of Asia’s evolving regional architecture. Finally,  I have joined a team of scholars to exam US alliances and multilateralism in Europe and Asia. 

Relevant publications and working papers:

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