Security, Development and Political Accommodation in Pacific Asia

James Manor

Institute of Commonwealth Studies

University of London

28 Russell Square

London WC1B 5DS

This project had been undertaken by a thirteen-member team, over a three-year period commencing 1 May 1995. This report covers our efforts during calendar year 1996.

The team of researchers is divided into two groups. The first consists of scholars doing single-country cases studies. The second group is engaged in work on cross-national comparative themes. Year one of the project (up to mid-1996) was mainly devoted to the preparation of drafts of country studies. They were discussed at an annual workshop of the entire team in London in July 1996. Year two of the project (from mid-1996 to mid-1997, so that it embraces the second half of the year covered by this report) is mainly devoted to the production of drafts by cross-national, comparative specialists. That has proceeded satisfactorily. Their drafts will be examined an another workshop in mid-1997.

The main collective event of 1996 was thus the July workshop, a two-day meeting. The quality of the papers presented was high, and the discussion was quite superb -- as the Director of the Pacific Asia Programme (who was present) can attest. The cases covered were Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Guangdong Province of China. Paper givers received useful criticisms from other team members, which should enable them to offer revised texts in year three which should add up to a worthwhile volume. (The papers on cross-national themes are expected to comprise a second volume.)

The inter-disciplinary nature of the team has not prevented it from working well as a unit -- partly because its members are well skilled at making themselves intelligible to non-specialists. The decision to permit each country study author to provide not only a broad overview of the project's themes, but a deeper analysis of a particular issue on which he or she is well-informed appeared justified by the content of both the papers and the discussion.

Three personnel changes occurred during 1996. Tim Dyson, who had intended to do a cross-national study of demographic issues, was forced to withdraw when the London School of Economics imposed fresh burdens on him over the next few years. We have, however, persuaded John Sidel of the School of Oriental and African Studies to join us, to do a cross-national study explaining the presence of absence of "local bossism" in a number of countries in the region. That study will dovetail interestingly with several other cross-national papers, and can be achieved within our budget.

The third change involved a switch by Jomo K.S. of the University of Malaya from the cross-national group to the country-study group. He found evidence on his original topic sorely lacking for several countries, and therefore turned his attention to the case of Malaysia -- on which he wrote a find draft paper. This change brings greater balance to the project, since the country study specialists had previously been heavily outnumbered by comparativists.

Discussions are proceeding about the possibility of taking some or all of the members of this team to Bangkok and/or Beijing and/or Australia during the latter part of the project. But we have no breakthroughs to report at this time.

We end this year both excited and intimidated by the complexity of our task -- which is to develop a well-rounded understanding of the interactions of politics, economic development and state-society relations in the region. A great deal of work will be needed, especially in year three (starting 1 May 1997) to integrate our findings on hugely varied countries and themes.

We began our work with a clear understanding of the diversity within the Pacific Asia region -- we stated that the differences between, say Korea and Indonesia were as great as those between Sweden and Turkey. But our studies so far have brought home to us just how remarkable this diversity is -- and how difficult it will be to depict and explain it intelligibly. We are nonetheless confident that we can achieve some success at this, and at plotting the changes that have occurred within this varied region in recent times. It is important that we do so, because it is far too common in the West to see Pacific Asia as a relatively undifferentiated amalgam of dynamic economies with rather similar political outlooks.

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