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It’s Complicated! Debating China-Southeast Asia Relations

Harryanto Aryodiguno, President University, Indonesia
Zhaohui Wang, Xiamen University, China
Chester Yacub, University of Nottingham, UK
Moderator: Xiao Alvin Yang, Universität Kassel, Germany
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The relationships between China and Southeast Asia are complicated and multifaceted. In this debate, Harryanto Aryodiguno, Zhaohui Wang, and Chester Yacub will examine China-Southeast Asia Relations from three different theoretical perspectives.
Harryanto Aryodiguno will examine how Indonesia-China relations are determined by the identity and political views of Chinese-Indonesians. The relations between these two countries are in constant flux, like a high tide and ebb–from real friends in the Sukarno era to enemies during the Suharto era. After the Suharto era, relations between the two countries warmed up again, resulting in a strategic partnership. Various factors influenced the unstable relationship between the two countries: the external factors are the effects of the Cold War and the internal factor is the anti-ethnic Chinese sentiment in Indonesia. Entering 2000, the harmonious relations between the two countries were often unstable because of the competition between the United States and the People’s Republic of China trying to seize influence in the Southeast Asian region. Also, Indonesia’s domestic factors are China Threat and anti-Chinese (ethnic Chinese) sentiments that opposition groups and hardline groups in Indonesia raise. The ups and downs of the two countries’ relations affect foreign relations and trade between them. Relations between these countries also affect changes in Chinese ethnic identity in Indonesia. The relationship between China and Indonesia is reconnecting to the Chinese Indonesians’ role, which has brought back tensions between ethnic Chinese and non-Chinese in Indonesia. Aryodiguno concludes that the relationship between Indonesia and China has influenced the construction of Chinese identity in Indonesia. Chinese Indonesians’ political role and involvement contribute to a more stable or deteriorating relationship between Indonesia and China.
In the second presentation, Zhaohui Wang explores how Southeast Asian countries’ domestic sociopolitical factors influence their foreign policy-making and China-Southeast Asia relations. Based on comparative political sociology, Wang develops a 2*2 typology of foreign policymaking. One dimension is whether the foreign policymaking is personalized or institutionalized, and the other dimension is whether it is open/responsive or insulated. The different types of foreign policymaking in Southeast Asian countries are expected to have different influences on China-Southeast Asia relations. Then the typology will be applied to study the relationships between China and the main maritime Southeast Asian countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore).
In the third presentation, Chester Yacub will explore Philippine President Duterte’s diplomatic strategy in dealing with the South China Sea (SCS) dispute since the favourable Permanent Court of Arbitration Award in July 2016 until the end of the fourth year of his term in July 2020. Yacub will assess various prevailing International Relations (IR) realist frameworks in understanding the Philippines’ Sino-centric foreign policies. He will argue that scholars from both outside and within the Philippines who utilize these dominant IR explanations to make sense of the country’s foreign policy (un)consciously neglect either domestic politics or its state identity that has been influenced by a long history of colonial rule. He responds to this deficient, thus, distorted reading of IR by presenting a social constructivist approach to world affairs, employing the Copenhagen School’s (De) securitization theory. In short, Yacub will argue that the Duterte government’s pivot-to-China’s strategy has been influenced by local interest groups and has been supported by the public amidst the persistent Chinese intrusion in the SCS. The case of the Philippines demonstrates to what extent (De) securitization theory explains foreign policy decisionmaking.

Harryanto Aryodiguno is Assistant Professor in the International Relations Study Program, Faculty of Humanities, President University, Indonesia. He received his PhD in Political Science from National Taiwan University. His research fields include International Relations of East Asia, Taiwan’s political and economic development, Chinese political thought, comparative epistemologies for thinking in China, relations between Chinese Indonesians and China, Taiwan, and identity politics. His academic papers have appeared in Asian Survey, The Journal of South China Studies (Japan), AEGIS Journal of International Relations (Indonesia), and The Research and Educational Center For China Studies and Cross Taiwan-strait Relations.
Zhaohui Wang is Associate Professor at the School of International Relations and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Xiamen University. He holds degrees from Renmin University of China (dual BScs in International Politics and Economics), London School of Economics (MSc in International Political Economy) and University of Warwick (PhD in Politics and International Studies). His research lies in the fields of politics and International Relations, political economy, China studies, and Southeast Asian studies. His academic papers have appeared in Globalizations, Asian Survey, Journal of Contemporary China, and Journal of Chinese Political Science, among others.
Chester Yacub is currently a doctoral researcher at the School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham, UK. He holds master’s degrees in International Political Economy (London School of Economics and Political Science) and Economics (Ateneo de Manila University). He was a Research Fellow at the John J Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues (JJCICSI), an advocacy-oriented research institution based in the Ateneo. He has been interested in how material power and communal identity influence both Philippine society and its relationship with the outside world.
The Theoretical Debates on Asia series brings together young scholars from around the world to engage in theoretical debates on the emerging Indigenous international relations (IR) theories in Asia and new IR and global political economy (GPE) approaches to study Asia.


May 14 2021


10:00 am - 11:30 am
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