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  • Author: Christopher Chen, Angelo Paolo L. Trias
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Water is a fundamental element of survival and growth on Earth. As a prerequisite for life and an important economic resource, it supports all aspects of everyday activity. Ensuring that water is available, accessible and safe for current and future generations is among humanity’s greatest challenge. One of the most important Non-Traditional Security (NTS) challenges facing Southeast Asia is water security. This NTS Insight explores water security issues in Southeast Asia and examines the ways it threatens states and societies. While water security challenges are not new in the region, the nature of issues are changing, making it important to assess how such threats are defined, negotiated, and managed. The NTS governance process begins with identifying and understanding NTS challenges, and ways they are securitised. By looking at case studies at the sub-national, national and regional level, this paper seeks to present some of the major water security issues in the region, how they affect states and societies, and why they merit urgent attention and resources. This Insight explains why addressing sub-national water security challenges require consultative and participatory approaches that facilitate open democratic dialogue and local collective action. It will also lay out how deliberate planning, careful implementation, and judicious monitoring of water management policies are needed at both the national and regional levels. Further, while it is not easy to reconcile developmental goals with environmental protection, the gravity of the situation requires more preventive diplomacy and subregional collaborative mechanisms which are geared towards averting water conflicts. Overall, it aims to help formal and informal NTS actors working through various channels to gain further understanding of emerging water security challenges in Southeast Asia.
  • Topic: Security, Environment, Natural Resources, Water
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Margareth Sembiring
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Low carbon transition is an important climate change mitigation measure. It entails a switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources. The presence of cost-competitive domestic coal in coal-producing countries like Indonesia is often cited as a major stumbling block to renewable energy development. This article aims to probe the cheap domestic coal argument. It does so by examining the changing share of renewable energy sources in electricity production over a certain timeframe. The study finds mixed observations across important coal-producing countries. It thus argues that there is a need to go beyond the low-cost domestic coal axiom and examine deeper underlying factors that support or hinder renewable energy development in coal-producing countries.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Coal
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: C. Randall Henning
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: Cooperation and competition among regional financial arrangements (RFAs) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increasingly determine the effectiveness of the global financial safety net (GFSN), which many observers fear is becoming fragmented. Overlap among these crisis-fighting institutions has important benefits but also pitfalls, including with respect to competition, moral hazard, independence, institutional conflict, creditor seniority and non-transparency. The study reviews the RFAs in Latin America, East Asia and Europe to assess their relationships with the IMF and address these problems. Among other things, it concludes: institutional competition, while harmful in program conditionality, can be beneficial in economic analysis and surveillance; moral hazard depends critically on institutional governance and varies substantially from one regional arrangement to the next; secretariats should be independent in economic analysis, but lending programs should be decided by bodies with political responsibility; and conflicts among institutions are often resolved by key member states through informal mechanisms that should be protected and developed. Findings of other recent studies on the GFSN are critiqued. Architects of financial governance should maintain the IMF at the centre of the safety net but also develop regional arrangements as insurance against the possibility that any one institution could be immobilized in a crisis, thereby safeguarding both coherence and resilience of the institutional complex.
  • Topic: Governance, Surveillance, Strategic Competition, IMF
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Asia, South America, Australia, North America, Global Focus
  • Author: Dieter Ernst
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: This special report assesses the challenges that China is facing in developing its artificial intelligence (AI) industry due to unprecedented US technology export restrictions. A central proposition is that China’s achievements in AI lack a robust foundation in leading-edge AI chips, and thus the country is vulnerable to externally imposed supply disruptions. The COVID-19 pandemic has further decoupled China from international trade and technology flows. Success in AI requires mastery of data, algorithms and computing power, which, in turn, is determined by the performance of AI chips. Increasing computing power that is cost-effective and energy-saving is the indispensable third component of this magic AI triangle. Research on China’s AI strategy has emphasized China’s huge data sets as a primary advantage. It was assumed that China could always purchase the necessary AI chips from global semiconductor industry leaders. Until recently, AI applications run by leading-edge major Chinese technology firms were powered by foreign chips, mostly designed by a small group of top US semiconductor firms. The outbreak of the technology war, however, is disrupting China’s access to advanced AI chips from the United States. Drawing on field research conducted in 2019, this report contributes to the literature by addressing China’s arguably most immediate and difficult AI challenges. The report highlights China’s challenge of competing in AI, and contrasts America’s and China’s different AI development trajectories. Capabilities and challenges are assessed, both for the large players (Huawei, Alibaba and Baidu) and for a small group of AI chip “unicorns.” The report concludes with implications for China’s future AI chip development.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Science and Technology, Sanctions, Artificial Intelligence
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North America
  • Author: Dan Ciuriak, Maria Piashkina
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: The rapid digital transformation occurring worldwide poses significant challenges for policy makers working within a governance framework that evolved over centuries. Domestic policy space needs to be redefined for the digital age, and the interface with international trade governance recalibrated. In this paper, Dan Ciuriak and Maria Ptashkina organize the issues facing policy makers under the broad pillars of “economic value capture,” “sovereignty” in public choice and “national security,” and outline a conceptual framework with which policy makers can start to think about a coherent integration of the many reform efforts now under way, considering how policies adopted in these areas can be reconciled with commitments under a multilateral framework adapted for the digital age.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Reform, Digital Economy, Multilateralism, Digitization
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe, Asia, North America
  • Author: Rudolf Furst
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute of International Relations Prague
  • Abstract: The Euro-Japanese rapprochement stimulates the Japanese interest in the new EU member states, which are then matched with Japanese investments and Japan’s global trade strategy. The V4 countries benefit from their geographical position, existing infrastructure and political stability, industrial tradition, and low labour costs, emphasizes Rudolf Fürst.
  • Topic: Economics, Bilateral Relations, Labor Issues, European Union, Political stability, Industry
  • Political Geography: Japan, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Wada Haruko
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: The United States, Australia, Japan, India, France, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and ASEAN have adopted the term “Indo-Pacific” as a policy symbol of regional engagement. However, less attention has been given to the change in the geographical definition of the “Indo-Pacific”. This study examines how these countries have adjusted the geographical scope of “Indo-Pacific” to understand how they conceptualise the region. It finds that the inherent core area of the “Indo-Pacific” is from India to the Southeast Asian countries and the seas from the eastern Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, and that the “Indo-Pacific” has converged eastwards and diverged westwards through the geographical adjustment process. It also found that some of the geographical definitions have an additional function of conveying diplomatic messages. These findings will help us understand how the concept of “Indo- Pacific” as conceptualised by various countries develops.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Regional Cooperation, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Asia, France, Australia, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Muhammad Faizal, Bin Abdul Rahman
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: This paper examines how Singapore as a small state will have to navigate a more contested world from a policy-relevant angle. A primary driver of geopolitical contestation today stems from emergent or Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies contributing to the redistribution of geopolitical power to the disadvantage of the established western-led international order. Even as Singapore embarks on numerous programmes to invest in and adopt 4IR technologies, it has to consider geopolitics besides technical specifications and budgetary issues. A small state will have to face trade-offs when it engages the competing big powers to preserve its neutrality and balance relations. It is difficult for small states to emulate each other’s strategies in balancing relations with the big powers given their varying levels of risk appetite and technological adoption, as well as their different geostrategic and geo-economic realities. Nevertheless, there are strategic steps that small states such as Singapore can take to defend its national interests better while investing in and adopting 4IR technologies.
  • Topic: National Security, Science and Technology, Global Political Economy, Trade
  • Political Geography: Asia, Singapore
  • Author: Malcolm Davis
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: This paper examines the key drivers shaping Australia’s role as a middle power in an era of intensifying US-China strategic competition. These drivers include the influence of strategic geography; its historical legacy in international affairs; the impact of its economic relationships with states in the Indo-Pacific region; the changing demands of defence policy, including the potential offered by rapid technological change; and, the impact of climate change, resource constraints and demographic factors. The paper considers three possible scenarios that will shape Australia’s middle power policy choices – a US-China strategic equilibrium; a “China crash” scenario that promotes a more nationalist and assertive Chinese foreign policy; and a third “major power conflict” scenario where competition extends into military conflict. The paper concludes that Australia cannot maintain a delicate balance between its strategic alliance with the US and trading relationship with China. It argues there is a need for Australia to adopt a deeper strategic alliance with the US while promoting closer ties with its partners in the Indo-Pacific and supporting the growth of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific region to counterbalance growing Chinese power. Australia needs to embrace an Indo-Pacific step up, and as a middle power, reduce the prospect of a Sino-centric regional order emerging.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nationalism, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Australia, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Frank Umbach
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: When Beijing threatened to restrict China’s export of rare earths (widely used in numerous important civilian and military technologies) to the United States at the end of May 2019, the world was reminded of China’s rare earths export disruption in the autumn of 2010 amid a maritime territorial conflict between China and Japan. In the past few years, the worldwide attention cast on the future supply security of rare earths and other critical raw materials has increased in the United States, the European Union, Japan and other countries owing to the global expansion of “green technologies” (including renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and batteries, and smart grids) and digitalisation as well as equipment and devices embedded with artificial intelligence. In this paper, the term “critical raw materials” (CRMs) refers to raw materials critical to industries that are also import-dependent on them, and to new technologies which often have no viable substitutes and whose supply, besides being constrained by limited recycling rates and options, is also dominated by one or a few suppliers. CRMs include rare earth elements (REEs), which comprise 17 different elements (see Figure 4). The global race for the most advanced technologies dependent on CRMs has intensified the competition for access to as well as strategic control of REEs, lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel and other CRMs. This working paper analyses the global supply and demand balance of three CRMs (REEs, lithium and cobalt, the latter two being major raw materials for batteries) in the foreseeable future and whether ASEAN countries can play a role as producers and suppliers of CRMs. It also examines potential counterstrategies for mitigating and reducing the global demand for CRMs, such as substitution, reduced use of CRMs, and recycling and re-use.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Digital Economy, Green Technology, Metals
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia