Recent Issue – Vol 90, No 2 – June 2017

Japanese National Security Advisor Yachi Shōtarō

Japan’s Kissinger? Yachi Shōtarō: The State Behind the Curtain

Giulio Pugliese, King’s College London, London, UK

Keywords: Japan-China relations, Yachi Shōtarō, Japanese foreign policymaking, secret diplomacy, strategy, Yasukuni Shrine

Abe Shinzō, Prime Minster of Japan

Abstract

This article reassesses the 2006 and, tentatively, the 2014 reset in Sino-Japanese relations to argue in favour of an increasingly state-centric understanding of Japanese diplomacy. By making use of a narrative account and a variety of primary sources—including personal memoirs, elite interviews, participatory observation, and leaked State Department cables—this article finds that Abe Shinzō’s foreign policy confidante, Yachi Shōtarō, embodied the unmatched influence of government actors in Japan’s political landscape. The article provides a close-up portrait of Yachi, with an emphasis on his preference for geopolitics, strategy, and secret diplomacy. Yachi and the institutional apparatus he represented sought détente with Japan’s main strategic adversary, while pushing for geopolitical initiatives that targeted China. The article concludes by arguing that the Abe administration’s insistence on, and institutionalized practice of, conducting public affairs in secret will likely further strengthen the role of the nation-state and of government actors in Japan, also in light of growing geopolitical tensions in East Asia.  Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要  DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5509/2017902231


Participatory Inequality in the Online and Offline Political Engagement in Thailand

Aim Sinpeng, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Keywords: social media, socioeconomic status, participation, Thailand, inequality

Abstract

Does social media reinforce or transcend socioeconomic divides in political participation? The mobilization thesis suggests that social media use can bring previously disengaged or under-represented groups into politics. The reinforcement thesis, in contrast, posits that social media has little impact on existing patterns of political participation and can, in fact, exacerbate them. I test these two hypotheses in the context of street protests in Thailand which occurred from November 2013 through March 2014. I contrast data from the Asia Foundation’s socioeconomic survey of over 300 street demonstrators with unique socio-demographic profile data drawn from 600 Facebook users affiliated with either the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) or the pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). I find that overall, political participants on Facebook were of lower socioeconomic status and a younger demographic profile than offline participants for both sides of the political divide. These findings support the mobilization claim by demonstrating that there is less participatory inequality among online participants. The key implications of this study are two-fold. First, data from Thailand permits an examination of socioeconomic stratification of political participation both online and offline in a country outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and with profound digital inequality. Second, the similarities in the socioeconomic backgrounds of the UDD and PDRC online supporters, in stark contrast to their offline counterparts, suggest that social media engagement has a mitigating effect on participatory inequalities. Facebook thus provides a new avenue for those not engaged in offline political activities. Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要   DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5509/2017902253


Concrete Memories and Sensory Pasts: Everyday Heritage and the Politics of Nationhood

Kelvin E.Y. Low, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Keywords: everyday heritage, concrete memories, heritage trails, heritagization, sensory remembering, actor-network theory, Singapore

Abstract

This paper interrogates how Singapore’s everyday heritage has been framed through embodied and sensory experiences. While buildings and other landmarks have been conserved as heritage icons, this designation also includes particular routes known as heritage trails. Buildings and trails by themselves are not invested with symbolic meaning; it is the processes of heritage packaging that consign particular landmarks and sites with a heritage purpose. By employing the notion of “concrete memories,” I argue that heritage landmarks and trails form a site through which the nation’s history is selectively interpreted, negotiated, and experienced by different actants. Concrete memories comprise three key features: familiarity, sensory remembering, and ownership. The discussion of concrete memories is undergirded by broad methodological principles of actor-network theory. The intention is to call attention to embodied tourism in heritage tourism studies while at the same time addressing the production and consumption of heritage and power relations through heritage networks. Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要  DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5509/2017902275


REVIEW ESSAY

Disputed Waters, Contested Norms: Framing Discourses on the South China Sea Disputes

Jiye Kim, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Keywords: South China Sea, Maritime Dispute, Sovereignty, UNCLOS, China

THE SOUTH CHINA SEA MARITIME DISPUTE: Political, Legal and Regional Perspectives. Routledge Security in Asia Pacific Series, 28. Edited by Leszek Buszynski and Christopher B. Roberts.  Abingdon, UK; New York: Routledge, 2015. 222 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$168.00, cloth.  ISBN 978-0-415-72288-9.

UN CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA AND THE SOUTH CHINA SEA. Contemporary Issues in the South China Sea. Edited by Shicun Wu, Mark Valencia, and Nong Hong.  Surrey, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015. xvi, 351 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$145.95, cloth.  ISBN 978-1-4724-5295-5.

MAJOR LAW AND POLICY ISSUES IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA: European and American Perspectives. Contemporary Issues in the South China Sea. Edited by Yann-Huei Song, Keyuan Zou.  Surrey, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014. xvi, 309 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$149.95, cloth.  ISBN 978-1-4094-5594-3.

POWER POLITICS IN ASIA’S CONTESTED WATERS: Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea. Global Power Shift. Edited by Enrico Fels, Truong-Minh Vu.  Cham: Springer International Publishing, c2016. vii, 546 pp. (Illustrations.) CAD$224.00, cloth.  ISBN 978-3-319-26150-8.

Abstract

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea (SCS) have recently attracted serious attention from policy makers and scholars alike, raising important questions about the role of international law. The four volumes reviewed here bring a range of existing and new perspectives to bear upon the debates surrounding tensions in the SCS. First, Power Politics in Asia’s Contested Waters mostly focuses on state actors and their interactions regarding the SCS disputes. Second, Major Law and Policy Issues in the South China Sea and, third, UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the South China Sea go beyond the state level of analysis and bring international legal regimes and rules to our attention, and relate them to states’ practices. Last, The South China Sea Maritime Dispute seeks to combine various levels of analysis in order to situate the SCS disputes within the political, legal, and regional dynamics. The various contributors further extend their research by suggesting practical solutions, including promoting regional common heritage, the Spitsbergen model, and the shared sovereignty model. The books under review are not only highly pertinent to the current debate on the SCS disputes, but also suggest multiple levels and frames of analysis, as well as proposing some innovative solutions to this thorny problem. Chinese Translation of Abstract – 摘要   DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5509/2017902297


Book Reviews Published in Volume 90, No. 2 – June 2017

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