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The Institutionalisation of the East-Asian Economic Order



CITYPERC Seminar Series

Admission: Free to attend. All welcome.

Speaker: Professor Richard Higgot (University of Warwick)

Discussant: Dr Lee Jones (Queen Mary University of London)

Chair: Professor Anastasia Nesvetailova (City University London)

East Asia offers a veritable alphabet soup of trans-regional institutional activity. Realists are pessimistically skeptical of the significance of it. By contrast, liberals and constructivists are often excessively optimistic. Analysis of trans-regional institutionalization in East Asia is, all too frequently, either theory heavy and narrative light or narrative rich and theory light. But the emerging Asian order is no mere subset of global order nor is our understanding reducible to competing western theories. There is a competing vision of regional order—East Asia versus the Pacific—the struggle for which has a dynamic of its own. Asian trans-regional institutionalization is developing a bottom up set of norms and practices that differ from the top down processes that fashioned the post World War II global economic order. The trick to understanding is to note the innovative nature of some (but not all) East Asian regional activity without the accompanying (Anglo-American Cartesian) teleological assumption that institutionalization will morph into a single and formal quasi-sovereign juridical space.

The paper presented will support these theoretical observations via an empirical investigation of two recent contested regional innovations: (i) the Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank (AIIB) as a response to the absence of reform at the IMF and (ii) the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as a response to the US led-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). AIIB and RCEP represent trans-regional institutional activity with distinctly Asian characteristics that seek to craft institutions that better suit wider Asian interests. That the outcome of this competition is still to be determined is less relevant than the fact of it. This competition will be shown to reflect a growing dissatisfaction with those multilateral institutions underwritten by 20th century assumptions of who sets the parameters of world order. Competition will not lead to overnight institutional transformation. But it is leading to the emergence of new regional norms and institutional practices that will cast wide policy shadows. The less formalized nature of institutionalization in East Asia is facilitating the growth of a ‘contested multilateralism’ at the inter-regional and global level that challenges the norms and institutional practices that have long operated in the global institutions.

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When & where

6.00pm - 7.30pmTuesday 6th October 2015

D111 Rhind Building City, University of London St. John Street London EC1R 0JD United Kingdom