On the agrarian question

Richard Westra is a co-editor of JCA and is affiliated with the Center for Macau Studies, University of Macau. His latest article is with the newly relaunched The Japanese Political Economy and is titled “An Unoist perspective on the agrarian question in capitalist development.”

The abstract for the article states:

This article revisits the agrarian question and the related problematic of so-called unfree labor through the prism of two contending approaches to Marxist theory. In highlighting the limitations of the received approach, the conceptual infrastructure of which is pushed to the limit in the face of seismic shifts in the world economy, the article draws on the Uno approach to Marxist theory to examine the case Marx makes for the role of agrarian change in capitalism and sketches out the implications of that for understanding labor relations in non-developed economies at the current conjuncture. Operationalizing theoretical insights arrived at in this discussion the article turns to evidence on agrarian change and the commodification of labor power in China.

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Political Brokers in India

Comparing Brokers in India: Informal Networks and Access to Public Services in Bihar and Gujarat” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1605535) is a new article at the JCA publisher’s website.

Ward Berenschot

This article is authored by Ward Berenschot of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) at Leiden in the Netherlands and Sarthak Bagchi of the School of Arts and Sciences at Ahmedabad University, Gujarat, India.

The abstract states:

Sarthak Bagchi

Faced with unresponsive and intimidating state institutions, citizens often need to rely on brokers to obtain state benefits. This article compares the ways in which brokers help people gain access to public services in two Indian states. Using ethnographic fieldwork in both states, we compare Bihar and Gujarat to argue that the evolution of the informal networks through which citizens gain access to public services constitutes an important dimension of democratisation processes. In both Gujarat and Bihar such brokerage networks have fragmented considerably over the last 40 years, while also becoming less marked by social hierarchies. This change has taken place despite a differing role and strength of political parties in the two states. The fragmentation and levelling of brokerage networks have enabled citizens to put more pressure on state institutions and power holders. This process of “informal democratisation” suggests that the comparative study of brokerage networks constitutes a promising and largely unexplored avenue to interpret the challenges facing governance and local democracy in India.

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Issue 3 of 2019 published

Issue number 3 of Volume 49 of the journal has gone to print and is available electronically at the publisher’s site. This is a regular issue of seven research articles and five book reviews.

The research articles are:

“Extremely Rightful” Resistance: Land Appropriation and Rural Agitation in Contemporary Vietnam by Lam Minh Chau

Facebook, Contestation and Poor People’s Politics: Spanning the Urban–Rural Divide in Cambodia? by
Caroline Hughes and Netra Eng

The “Servants” of Dehradun: A Changing Relationship between Municipal Councillors and Voters in India by Tanya Jakimow

Contested Resource Extraction, Anti-Corporate Protests and the Politics of Movement Alliance in Bangladesh by M. Omar Faruque

The Politics of Conditional Citizenship in South Korea: An Analysis of the Print Media by David Hundt, Jessica Walton and Soo Jung Elisha Lee

Organised Labour, Dualisation and Labour Market Reform: Korean Trade Union Strategies in Economic and Social Crisis by Timo Fleckenstein and Soohyun Christine Lee

The Development-Insecurity Nexus in China’s Near-Abroad: Rethinking Cross-Border Economic Integration in an Era of State Transformation by Shahar Hameiri, Lee Jones and Yizheng Zou

The book reviews are:

The Development of Malaysian Capitalism: From British Rule to the Present Day reviewed by Alec Gordon

Thailand. Shifting Ground between the US and a Rising China reviewed by Kevin Hewison

Foreign Direct Investment and the Chinese Economy: A Critical Assessment reviewed by Kosmas Tsokhas

Asia After the Developmental State: Disembedding Autonomy reviewed by Kanishka Jayasuriya

Reinventing Social Democratic Development: Insights from Indian and Scandinavian Comparisons reviewed by Neil Webster

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Belt and Road, Thailand and Railway Projects

Laurids S. Lauridsen of the Department of Social Sciences and Business at Roskilde University in Denmark has a new article with JCA. “Drivers of China’s Regional Infrastructure Diplomacy: The Case of the Sino-Thai Railway Project” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1603318).

Reflecting on the broader Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) promoted by China’s President Xi Jinping, the author looks at the country’s efforts to project the BRI into mainland Southeast Asia, where the railway projects in Thailand have been problematic.

The abstract states:

The land-based Silk Road Economic Belt, as a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, has become central for the country’s economic diplomacy since 2013. As part of these initiatives, Chinese authorities have been keen to expand their high-speed railways across the country’s border into neighbouring countries. Thailand has been one of the front-runners in negotiating high-speed railway projects with China. This article seeks to answer the following questions: what are the driving forces behind the land-based Silk Road Belt; what are the rationales behind the Sino-Thai rail project; and how can the process and outcome of Sino-Thai negotiations be understood? These questions reflect on whether we are witnessing Chinese economic diplomacy to advance commercial and wider economic goals or Chinese economic statecraft to serve foreign policy objectives. Overall, after examining the evidence, the article argues that Silk Road Economic Belt diplomacy and the Sino-Thai rail project are driven predominantly by economic motivations.

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Indonesia, Illiberalism and the South China Sea

Indonesia’s South China Sea Diplomacy: A Foreign Policy Illiberal Turn?” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1601240) by Dave McRae of the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia, is the third article for a special issue on post-reformasi Indonesia.

The article’s abstract states:

Key areas of Indonesian foreign policy have remained largely autonomous of the political struggles associated with democratisation and a subsequent illiberal turn, even as they have changed the way foreign policy is formulated. Indonesia’s South China Sea diplomacy has been one such area of autonomy. Although the issue has gained great public salience, as the most prominent foreign policy challenge for the current Joko Widodo administration, the government has maintained a striking continuity in its approach dating to the authoritarian Suharto era. Such continuity persists because the strategic challenge facing Indonesia has endured: throughout Indonesia’s modern history, the government has sought to assert the nation’s rights to territory and resources against more powerful states. The government’s current policy settings have also preserved a status quo that serves a range of Indonesian interests sufficiently well to prevent the emergence of a coherent coalition of interests to push for a new approach, in what is a technical policy area dominated by foreign ministry experts. As such, although the Joko Widodo administration has exhibited greater overt nationalism in its handling of the issue, Indonesia’s broader illiberal turn has not been transformative of the government’s diplomacy.

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CUP Asian Studies Free Downloads

Cambridge University Press has made some articles from their Asian Studies journals free to download until 15 May. These are the articles that have been most cited. For a look at these, visit this page.

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China’s Maritime Rise

China’s Pathway towards Maritime Civilisation is reviewed for JCA by Xiaolong Zou of the School of International & Public Affairs, Jilin University, Changchun City, China.

Published in Chinese as 郑永年论中国: 中国通往海洋文明之路, the book is authored by Zheng Yongnian and published by the Eastern Publishing Corp. in 2018.

The book’s six chapters cover a range of interweaved topics: China’s maritime geo-politics, soft power, ZouChina’s rise, South China Sea issues, China’s diplomacy towards neighbouring countries,  the “Indo-Pacific” concept and the rise of the Belt and Road Initiative. Underpinning all of this is a concern for Sino-USA relations and China’s regional rise.

Zou concludes that in terms geo-politics:

Zheng’s book is one of just a few works in Chinese that offer insightful and objective analysis of China’s geo-political situation, especially as he moves beyond the “political correctness” upheld by most Chinese scholarship. This is a though-provoking book offering insight and suggestions for China’s foreign policy makers and other stakeholders. It deserves to be widely read, considered and critiqued.

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