China and Sino-North Korean Relations

Kevin Gray is with the Department of International Relations at the University of Sussex in the UK and Jong-Woon Lee is with the Arete College of Liberal Arts at the Far East University in South Korea. They have a new article published online with JCA.

Kevin Gray

The Rescaling of the Chinese State and Sino-North Korean Relations: Beyond State-Centrism” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1377279) is a timely article that looks at the broad political economy of China’s relations with North Korea.

The article’s abstract states:

Jong-Woon Lee

While Beijing has repeatedly signed up to multilateral sanctions against North Korea, it is widely regarded as having failed to enforce them. Indeed, China’s deepening economic engagement with the country has led observers to debate the causes of this seemingly duplicitous approach. Constructivist and realist approaches have relied on state-centric frameworks that serve to reduce Sino-North Korean relations to the high politics of Beijing-Pyongyang diplomacy in the context of broader geopolitical dynamics. This article argues that such approaches pay insufficient attention to the profound rescaling of the Chinese state in recent years and the implications this process has for bilateral relations. This article sheds light on how Sino-North Korean relations are being driven by actors at multiple scales and by a multitude of objectives as a result of decentralisation and marketisation alongside increasing geographical unevenness within China and new challenges to continued capital accumulation. North Korea has come to play an increasingly important role in efforts to facilitate economic recovery in the northeastern border regions through serving as spatial fix for Chinese manufacturing capital. These new cross-border flows of capital and labour suggest an emerging pattern of Sino-North Korean relations that is by no means static but in considerable flux.

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Chomsky moves to Arizona

For those who don’t know, Editorial Board member Noam Chomsky has moved from MIT to the University of Arizona, and joined the Department of Linguistics as a laureate professor. He will also hold the title of Agnese Nelms Haury Chair in the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice. 

Noam has been on JCA’s Editorial Board since Issue 2 in 1970. Our 2007 interview with Noam is available as a PDF for download.

Having Noam associated with the journal for such a long period has been a great honour.

We hope that, freed from having to shovel snow, Noam will continue to be one of the world’s most influential scholars and an intellectual leader.

We wish him wonderful health and look forward to his books, articles and interviews.

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Most Viewed at JCA

The publisher’s website includes lists of the most cited and most viewed/downloaded articles at JCA. Of the latter, the following are noteworthy, with three of them available for free download:

Thailand’s Deep State, Royal Power and the Constitutional Court (1997–2015) by Eugénie Mérieau, Published online: 29 Feb 2016,  8109 Views

Many Clicks but Little Sticks: Social Media Activism in Indonesia  by Merlyna Lim, Published online: 22 Oct 2013, 6003 Views

Working Towards the Monarchy and its Discontents: Anti-royal Graffiti in Downtown Bangkok  by Serhat Ünaldi, Published online: 27 May 2014, 5911 Views

Is Japan Really Back? The “Abe Doctrine” and Global Governance  by Hugo Dobson, Published online: 2 Dec 2016, 3306 Views

Introduction: Thailand and the “good coup” by Michael K. Connors & Kevin Hewison, Published online: 23 Nov 2007, 3102 Views

The Political Economy of Myanmar’s Transition  by Lee Jones, Published online: 26 Nov 2013, 3000 Views

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Elections, Ethnic Politics and Health Policy

In a new JCA Book Review (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1370552), Joseph Harris of the Department of Sociology at Boston University examines Coalitions of the Well-Being: How Electoral Rules and Ethnic Politics Shape Health Policy in Developing Countries.

Authored by Joel Sawat Selway and published by Cambridge University Press in 2015, with this paperback edition in 2017, Harris says the book “makes an important contribution aimed at helping understand why some nations perform better than others in the area of health.”

The book is concerned with somewhat narrow institutionalist debates, and argues that “new electoral rules caused political parties to shift from a focus on pork barrel politics and begin to think in terms of national policy programmes and proffer universal healthcare.” The social conflict that underpins rules, voting and policy fades into the dark as the focus is on institutions. But this narrowness is married with a broad set of cases: Botswana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand and Thailand.

Harris also notes that it “seems that the book’s focus on electoral rules and ethnicity as variables that help explain health performance at times leads it to overlook or dismiss much too casually the critical role that political actors sometimes play.”

With the “extraordinary sweep and scope of the book,” Harris says that Selway “makes very difficult and complicated subject matter come alive through writing that is entertaining as well as insightful.”

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Women’s Parliamentary Representation in Indonesia

Ben Hillman of the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University has a new article with JCA.

His article is titled “The Limits of Gender Quotas: Women’s Parliamentary Representation in Indonesia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1368092). It examines the ways in which women have been engaged in the relatively new electoral systems of Indonesia.

The abstract states:

The potential for gender quotas to increase women’s parliamentary representation has been the subject of intense scholarly interest around the world. Although, at a global level, quotas are believed to have contributed to a steady increase in women’s share of parliamentary seats, there is significant variation across regions and countries. The conventional wisdom holds that cultural factors are the major constraint on the gender quota’s potential to deliver more seats to women candidates. The Indonesian experience suggests otherwise. Although cultural factors remain a barrier to Indonesian women’s entry to elected office, cultural factors do not explain the rise and fall in women’s descriptive (numerical) representation in parliament over the past two electoral cycles. Findings from this study suggest that institutional factors, notably changes to the voting system and the consequences for campaign funding, present a more formidable challenge to women’s advance in Indonesia’s party and parliamentary politics. These findings should be of interest to students of gender quotas, affirmative action for women in politics and contemporary Indonesia.

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Political Economy and Securitising “Outside Influences” in Bali

Fabio Scarpello of the Inequality and Peace-Building Department at VJW International and the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University has authored a new article available from JCA.

Beyond Copenhagen: The Political Economy of Securitising “Outside Influences” in Bali” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1362583) has the following abstract:

Securitisation theory has contributed greatly to critical security studies. However, the Copenhagen School’s focus on discursive analysis fails to answer the “so what” question of why issues are securitised and for whose benefit. This article contends that more nuanced explanations can be provided by taking seriously the political economy context within which the process of securitisation is embedded. The article has two aims. First, it contributes to further refining securitisation theory by embedding Balzacq’s pragmatic act – which implies that securitising actors gain the assent of an audience based on a shared view of vulnerabilities – within a broad social conflict analysis. This latter can explain the socio-political struggles that create popular support for securitisation, and what social groups benefit from it. Second, it contributes to explanations of Bali’s contemporary political economy by operationalising the refined approach to explain how struggles over the spoils of tourism have created a receptive audience among a cross-class section of Balinese for the securitisation of “outside influences” – a euphemism for migrants, non-local investors and Western cultural influences. Securitisation has resulted in conservative elite groups marginalising progressive voices; “traditional” institutions being favoured in accessing state resources; and in a policing landscape in which migrants are harassed and exploited.

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Ethnic Tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang

Ethnic Conflict and Protest in Tibet and Xinjiang. Unrest in China’s West is a new collection edited by Ben Hillman and Gray Tuttle and published by Columbia University Press. It is reviewed for JCA by Colin Mackerras (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1366542).

Professor Mackerras agrees this “is a timely book on an important topic.” Both Tibet and Xinjiang have seen considerable state attention and ethnic and religious unrest. He argues that:

The Chinese state has tended to blame outside sources for the ethnic unrest that has occurred. This book accords with much Western commentary in putting a great deal of the blame on China’s policies and behaviour in the Tibetan areas and Xinjiang. Though state suppression of violent disturbances and dissent may be able to curb some hostile incidents, it does not help in soothing the resentments many Tibetans and Uyghurs feel.

The reviewer observes that: “All the contributors to this book, and both editors, are deeply familiar with the situation in China’s west, and have carried out field research there.” This makes for a good book and Mackerras states:

[T]his is an excellent and well researched book. It is well edited and, despite a range of topics, well focused within the overall theme of ethnic conflict and protest in China’s western provinces in the early twenty-first century. It is also balanced and fair, pointing not only to problems and challenges, but to some successes.

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