GEM-DIAMOND doctoral fellow
ESR 14 – Responding to competing authoritarian models: Japan and EU’s respective neighbourhoods compared
Serious, Efficient, and Creative in my research/ analytical works. I am interested in research/analysis in political science in general, political economy, diplomacy, welfare state transformations, ESG impact investment consulting, and equitable digital-ecological transformation.
How have authoritarian turns in the neighboring countries reshaped EU and Japan’s strategy of democracy support and regional political dynamics?
- Luca Tomini
- Ken Miichi
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the collapse of the USSR (1991), scholars and world citizens started to ponder upon the mere possibility of the end of ideological struggles. In the iconic piece The End of History and The Last Man (1992), Francis Fukuyama portraits the brave new world as championed by liberal democracy and capitalist economies. With countries under the USSR influence started to have the aspiration to democratize and westernize/ Europeanize, the EU also introduced membership criteria for ascension. While the fight against corruption, the respect for human rights, civil and political rights, the rule of law, liberal-democratic norms are the basic democratic requirements, they often come with neoliberal reform packages. While some countries may adapt very well with the neoliberal reforms within and beyond the EU, such as Germany, with an export-oriented growth regime (Hassel and Palier 2021) and a dualized labor protection scheme, others may find it unsuitable to their economic development. Within the EU, the lack of conditionality is merely the surface limitation of the political compliance with the ideal of social justice and democracy. What is fundamental to the growing dissensus and dissatisfaction of the EU citizens and beyond, is the neoliberal structure and normative discourse (There-Is-No-Alternative) of neoliberal restructuring. This can partially explain the parallel between the erosion of democracy and the erosion of the welfare state and social policies. Meanwhile, with the introduction of technology into workforce, more diverse way of living, female participation in the labor market, diversification of migrant workers, etc. new social risks (Bonoli 2007) are on the rise, and they need to be adequately addressed. In both the eastern and southern neighborhood countries of the EU, and some EU states, the growing populist attitudes and parties express the suffering of the socioeconomically disadvantaged from the neoliberal policy structures, on both national and regional levels.
Meanwhile, with the rise of China and its growing global ambitions, countries that once rely on the EU or civilian countries like Japan, may find alternative or less demanding (no or little conditionality) ways of developmental funding. That is why in the beginning the One Belt One Road Initiative was so popular among the developing countries, including some countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe.
According to (Teti, Andrea et al. 2020), the “policies being promoted by the EU in the wake of the Uprisings are a continuation of neoliberal economic policy— growth led by exports and the private sector, privatisation, the reduction of the public sector by reducing its workforce and the real value of its wages, deregulating labour markets, opening the domestic economy to competition and ‘liberalising’ trade. These policies did not drive economic transformation nor were they responsive to long-term social, political and economic demands.... Their failure to raise living standards and provide employment or social justice for citizens has repeatedly been shown to be a major driver of the Uprisings” (175). Unfortunately, this is not unique to the Arab Spring, but to the EU’s neighborhood policy targets in general. In Southeast Asia, the ASEAN has found some common grounds for trade and supply chain complementarity and is steadily growing. However, there is an established rule of non-interference in the sovereign decision of the member states. Therefore, economic opening and liberalization does not translate into democracy nor the respect for the rule of law or human rights, while some progress has been made.
When countries like Russia and China provide alternative methods of infrastructure building, state building, either by coercion or seduction, or a mixture of both, some elites in the EU’s neighborhood countries and Southeast Asia may find it hard to refuse. While this may generate short-term positive effects, the dependency on illiberal and authoritarian giants like Russia and China is likely to be detrimental to their countries’ socioeconomic and political stability and wellbeing.
From the stated intriguing observation that demands for democracy and alternative methods of state-building can be triggered by the underlying socioeconomic struggles of sustainable development, I wish to explore first the relations between neoliberal policies and the growing authoritarian tendencies in the neighborhood countries of the EU and Japan since 2000, followed by how have the EU and Japan responded to such authoritarian turns? with recommendations on concrete policy proposal for both the EU and Japan. In this regard, conditionality is hypothesized as the main factor shaping the democratic/ authoritarian nexus of the countries at stake.
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Case Studies: In the neighborhood of the EU and Japan, zooming in a country in the EU’s eastern border, i.e. Ukraine, as well as Indonesia in Southeast Asia may provide fruitful comparative insights into how economic conditions, relations with Russia and China, and religious identities can shape their democratic performance and how the EU and Japan can respond to their demands for democratic support and economic stability. The case studies are subject to change in accordance with the supervisors’ guidance.
At Taipei First Girls High School, I conducted my first academic research with two colleagues on the Cultural and Spatial Identities of Southeast Asian Migrant Workers and Immigrants in Taiwan (2016), through the case study on Southeast Asia Bookstore Alliance, an NGO aims to promote cultural exchange and mutual understanding and appreciation between South East Asians and Taiwanese, notably with the founding and principle function of book exchange and sharing, while providing Southeast Asian migrant workers and immigrants with a variety of services and activities to help them adapt and integrate into Taiwanese society. Following the publication and presentation of this year-long research endeavor, in various academic seminars and conferences, we have been final-listed as national competitors for 2017 International Geography Olympiad, which I was later qualified as one of the four Taiwanese representatives in this competition held in Belgrade, Serbia, in the summer of 2017. In such research endeavor and the competition, I have gradually realized that I have been intellectually curious about the diversity of mechanisms leading to and affecting people’s decision making, both on individual and collective levels. While culture, religion, ideology, perception are the most prominent cognitive candidates, power, institution, economy, international relations are indispensable for comprehensive analysis.
At UPF, I was a member of European Law Student Association (ELSA) and was selected as one of the four delegates to the 128th session of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ Geneva office. However, upon security check, I was rejected entry on the basis that Taiwanese passport is not recognized by the UN, and that a VISA issued by Chinese government would be required for entrance. After the shock and profound disappointment that the inquiry into civil and political rights are being infringed on the very same basis, I have worked closely with Bureau de Genève, Délégation Culturelle et Economique de Taipei, an informal title of Taiwanese “embassy”, to report such violation of human rights by its very body of incarnation to local and international journalists as well as members of Grand Council of Geneva. The experience in Geneva has made me much more determined to prepare my academic and professional skills to contribute to the transformation of the global society in making it more just, inclusive, and democratic, as a researcher, advocate, and practitioner. Throughout the studies, I have been exploring various fields of work. After making such a tour around the future venues of my professional trajectory, I think returning to the academic realm allows me to critically examine the complex world in which we live. While complete objectivity is unattainable, rigorous academic research encourages one to have a bird eye view on the relation between the self and the world, which we truly need in this chaotic world. When the world is at war, it is particularly important for the academics to step up and propose ways to foster a more peaceful, humane, sustainable, inclusive, and just global society.
The mobility and publication opportunities, the combined advantaged of comparative politics and area studies, with the concentration on the neighborhood area of the EU and southeast Asia are the very attractive elements in the project 14 of GEMDIAMOND’s research and training agendas for me. The repeated moves would mean enlightened and enriched understanding of how the EU and Japan, as well as other link-minded entities could strategically learn from the best practices from one another. With the growing assertiveness of authoritarian powers, liberal democratic countries have to stand firm together. And I truly wish to be able to contribute within my modest intellectual capacity in this regard.