The Political Economy of Southeast Asian States
Time & LocationSession 2
Wed 11:00–12:30 Room 1.101
Save This EventAdd to Calendar
- BRI, Investment Flows and New State-Business Relations: A Case Study of China’s Investments in Malaysia Terence E. Gomez University of Malaya
In Southeast Asia, the implications of these new state-state relations leading to new forms of state-business relations (SBRs), precipitated by China’s promotion of its Belt-Road Initiative (BRI), as well as independent business ventures are the focus of this article. What are the outcomes of these different sorts of SBRs? What are the factors that have contributed to the construction of such state-state relations, more so when they appear to favour China and its state-owned enterprises (SOEs)? The primary focus of this assessment of new SBRs is their functionality and viability with primary concern being the need to understand how the system, in its diversity, works or does not work. A case study will be provided of China’s investments in Malaysia.
- Regulatory Regionalism and State Transformation: A Case Study of Hydropower Development in Laos Ome Chattranond Mahasarakham University
Regionalism has become a significant aspect of development in Southeast Asia, where national marketization and governance reforms go hand in hand and have led to a regionalization of economic activities. The creation of regional markets for goods and services across Southeast Asia is the main outcome of this regionalization process. However, the governance of the new regional markets has not kept pace with the deepening of the markets.
This paper analyses the integration of regional markets in Southeast Asia by focusing on so-called regulatory regionalism. It is a process in which governance at the regional level is shaped by inter-state politics, and influenced by transnational capital. Yet, regionalism in this case consists more of the regulation of national and regional markets rather than norm-setting by supranational institutions.
The analysis focuses on a case study of the hydropower sector in Laos, which serves to illustrate the transnational governance complex of investment and development. Our study concludes that liberalization and deregulation have placed developing countries such as Laos at the receiving end of processes of globalization, and have taken away these countries’ main tools for independent development policies. We argue that regulatory regionalism, on the one hand, has become an instrument to redress the limited development capacity of the state, while, on the other hand, it deepens the country’s dependency on and sensitivity to the regional and global political economy.
- State, Capital, and Labour in Post-Doi Moi Vietnam Pietro P. Masina University of Naples L'Orientale
One of the main features of the doi moi (renovation) process in Vietnam since the early 1990s has been the attraction of foreign direct investment to accelerate the industrialization process – until the mid 2000s through joint-ventures with state owned enterprises and in the following period prevailingly in the form of 100% foreign ownership. Since WTO admission in 2007 Vietnam actually became one of the largest FDI recipient among developing countries. Strong attraction of foreign investment – or increased FDI dependence – was connected to a hyper-liberal turn in the Vietnamese development strategy promoted by former Prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Foreign capital contributed to a rapid expansion of employment in manufacturing, especially in labour-intensive activities. The the country became an important manufacturing hub in electronics and garment, but industrial workers continued to be exposed to hard working conditions, low wages and precariousness. Vietnam seemed therefore to follow the steps of other regional countries which were pursuing an FDI-led, export-oriented model of industrialization. However, a closer look at the Vietnamese experience also reveals a rather distinctive way in which relations between state, capital and labour are addressed. First, industrial disputes and strikes are much more common than in other countries of the region and they are hardly repressed by local and national authorities. Second, the Vietnamese General Confederation of Labour – a party-affiliated organization – continues to play an important role in supporting workers interests: although at factory level its representatives are often appointed by the management and de facto it cannot organize strikes, it intervenes to promote negotiations with firms once spontaneous strikes have emerged; at the same time it operates nationally to promote pro-labour legislation and lobbies with the government each year to increase the minimum wage. Third, the state and the party maintain an ambiguous attitude in the relation with capital and labour – largely supporting the interest of foreign investors, but at the same time consenting industrial strikes possibly as a way to achieve bargaining power with foreign capital.
- The Challenge of Building Inclusionary Institutions: Subnational Variation of Contention in Philippine Mining Jewellord Tolentino Nem Singh Leiden University
While states promote inclusionary institutions in order to guarantee citizens in making informed choices over crucial political decisions, the design and implementation of such arrangements are often fraught with significant opposition. Reforms that seek to empower mining communities, such as the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as well as community-based assembly, have yielded mixed results at best. In the Philippines where strong public opinion against large-scale mining persists, efforts to institutionalize political participation of indigenous and mining communities have failed to protect their ancestral lands and promote a politics of redistribution. This paper examines the multiple logics of institutional design in mining regimes at the sub-national levels: on the one hand, the efforts to promote large-scale mineral extraction; and on the other hand, the progressive movement towards the institutionalization of social and cultural rights of minority groups impacted by resource exploitation. We argue that the weakness of designing inclusionary institutions stems from the dynamics of contention between elites and local social forces – in particular – the strength or weakness of collective action in relation to states and mining companies. The paper examines three cases in which state response to political pressures for inclusion varied as a result of different mobilizational capacity of mining and indigenous communities in the Philippines: a highly inclusionary arrangement in Benguet, co-optation of communities in Surigao del Norte, and state repression against communities in Mindanao.
The role of Southeast Asian states in economic development has been at the centre of multiple debates. Relevant literature noted that part of the region was inspired by the East Asian development state model although, with the only exception of Singapore, state interventions generally lacked the level of strategic and effective coordination typical of Northeast Asia. An expansion of the regional multi-layered subcontracting system since the late 1980s progressively integrated all Southeast Asian countries in (largely foreign-led) production networks. The reorganization of the regional production system was accompanied by trade liberalization and policies aimed at attracting Foreign Direct Investment. The vulnerability inherent in export-oriented industrialization was a fundamental cause of the regional economic crisis 1997/98, but the post- crisis recovery was accompanied by a further intensification of the same FDI-led industrialization model, with a more prominent integration of new countries (notably Vietnam, and later on Cambodia in garment).
The economic miracle rhetoric promoted by the World Bank just ahead of the regional crisis was succeeded by a new discourse emphasizing the limits of industrial upgrading and catching up with the West and the first generation of Asian NIEs. The region is now presented by the same World Bank as engulfed in a “middle-income trap”. The “trap” debate does not deny the role of many countries as exporters of manufactured goods, but underlines the fact that GDP per capita growth is too slow to allow a convergence with industrialized countries.
Against this critical background the panel aims at exploring the role of Southeast Asian states in pursuing economic development during the last thirty years. On the one hand, the focus is on the interpretation of the policies that have been implemented to accompany FDI-led industrialization models. On the other hand, the attention is on the debates within the countries and on the alternative visions that have emerged, helping to shed light on national decision-making processes. The dependent position of Southeast Asian countries in foreign-led production networks and the hegemonic role of neoliberal discourses on development have certainly reduced the autonomy of national policies. At the same time, however, the recent global crisis has again emphasized the role of states within a globalized economy. The panel, therefore, is looking at how Southeast Asia states have coped with foreign influences but also at how institutions, competing interests and local power structures have contributed to shaping national policies.
This panel proposal is connected with the ongoing Horizon 2020 CRISEA, but we hope to receive paper proposals also from colleagues not involved in this project.