In my new article in Asian Perspective Capturing Power Shift in East Asia: Toward an Analytical Framework for Understanding “Soft Power” in Asian Perspective proposes an analytical framework for analyzing soft power that problematizes the rigid soft power/hard power binary. The framework proposes a way to understand soft power and the hard-soft spectrum of behavior that allows for the inclusion of economic power while still drawing a line between hard and soft power, where not all economic power is soft, but nor is it all hard. Open Access: https://doi.org/10.1353/apr.2020.0016
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Mainstream International Relations (IR) theory has problems fully accounting for the regional dynamics of East Asia. This article explores whether the pursuit of soft power—a concept that has been given a prominent position in research on East Asian IR—can provide one piece of the puzzle for understanding East Asia’s regional dynamics. This article proposes an analytical framework for analyzing soft power that problematizes the rigid soft power/hard power binary. The framework proposes a way to understand soft power and the hard-soft spectrum of behavior that allows for the inclusion of economic power while still drawing a line between hard and soft power, where not all economic power is soft, but nor is it all hard. It is argued that to keep the concept of soft power relevant in the East Asian context economic power needs to be included. The line is drawn between economic coercion and economic inducement, arguing that when induced there is still a certain level of freedom as one can choose whether the payments or bribes offered are good enough for it to be worthwhile to change one’s preference and behavior. Coercion, in contrast, utilizes a different dynamic where the point is to force someone to do something they are unwilling to do.
This week I will be conducting a visit to Singapore to work on a Special Issue on “Power, Narratives, and the role of third parties: Understanding Power (Shift) in East Asia” for Asian Perspective with my RSIS co-guest editor Dr Li Mingjiang. This issue is part of Prof. Linus Hagström and my Power Shift in East Asia project funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.
I will also be visiting, among others, the East Asia Institute at National University of Singapore and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS).
On December 7-8, 2017 I am organising a conference on “The power of narratives in East Asian International Relations” together with Prof. Linus Hagström and Assoc. Prof. Karl Gustafsson. This is part of the Power Shift in East Asia project funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.
During the two days, leading researchers from around the world gather to focus on a variety of themes such as for example Okinawa-Taiwan narratives and counter-narratives, the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands dispute through narratives, regional narratives and expectations on China as a leading power in Southeast Asia, memes, narratives, and an emergent US-China security dilemma and more. The forum gathers international guests and prominent researchers such as Alice Ba, Alastair Iain Johnston, Peter Gries, LHM Ling, Mari Nakamura, Kosuke Shimizu, Hidekazu Sakai and others.
In an article in Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia I address the question what is left of two decades of positive engagement under the umbrella of Chinese Soft Power and ASEAN Constructive Engagement after the South China Sea having once again arisen to the top of the East Asian security debate after a decade of silence. This conflict is in many ways a litmus test of China’s relations with ASEAN and its member states, a conflict embedded in, and a manifestation of, the overarching relations. If the two sides cannot manage the SCS, what is next?
You can read my article on the Kyoto Review website:
Chinese Soft Power and ASEAN’s Constructive Engagement: Sino-ASEAN relations and the South China Sea (Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, Issue 15: South China Sea, March 2014)