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Jing-Syuan Wong

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.

Host Institutions

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

Research abstract

This paper will analyze the impact of institutional competition at the macro- regional levels while comparing the strategic and institutional resources mobilized by two civilian powers - the EU and Japan – to mediate mounting intersectional crises and counter shifts towards authoritarianism within their respective regions. How such crises and shifts have reshaped the EU and Japan’s strategies of democratic support in their respective neighborhoods, namely the area covered by the European Neighborhood Policy for the EU and the South-East Asia for Japan will be analyzed in a comparative manner.

Research questions

The central research question is: how have authoritarian turns in the neighboring countries reshaped EU and Japan’s strategy of democracy support and regional political dynamics? It relates to the central research question of the GEM-DIAMOND Project in so far as it covers the political axe of the project focusing on the reaction to exogenous competing and alternative models to democracy. In line with the project overall, the methods deployed during the research are qualitative in nature, including content analysis and elite interviews.

Working hypothesis

The dichotomy between democracy and authoritarianism has been on the academic and political agenda since the dawn of democracy. The struggle between the democratic Athens and the military-authoritarian Sparta was the very first example of this sort. Since the end of the Second World War, civilian powers have been (re)building states, with various combination of political and economic configuration. In western Europe, the period between 1945 and 1970s are noted by scholars and common citizens as the Les Trente Glorieuses (the thirty glorious years), marking the heyday of liberal democracy and capitalistic economy, characterized by strong economic growth and Bismarckian-conservative yet robust welfare state. With countries de-colonialize and gained independence from the western powers, while struggling to find their proper post- colonial identities, many also reference the western civic culture and liberal attitudes, even in some Islamic countries. However, the oil crises in the 1970s marked the beginning of the end of this era. In1978, China introduced its fundamental economic reforms under Deng Xiaoping. In 1980s, pioneered by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, neo-liberal reforms gradually gained ground against the generous welfare state and the concept of a big state. The European integration also concretized into a security, economic, political, and regulatory project with its formation and enlargement.

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.

Shared bibliography

Armingeon, Klaus, and Bonoli, Giuliano. The Politics of Post-Industrial Welfare States: Adapting Post-War Social Policies to New Social Risks. Routledge, 2006,

Brattberg, Erik, et al. China’s Influence in Southeastern, Central, and Eastern Europe: Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2021.

Capling, Ann, and John Ravenhill. “The TPP: Multilateralizing Regionalism or the Securitization of Trade Policy?” The Trans-Pacific Partnership, 2012, pp. 279–98,

Cassani, Andrea and Tomini, Luca. “Trajectories and Modes of Autocratization in the Early 21st Century.” Partecipazione e Conflitto, vol. 13, no. 3, ESE Salento University Publishing, 2020, pp. 1539–58,

Cassani, Andrea, and Luca, Tomini. “Post-Cold War Autocratization: Trends and Patterns of Regime Change Opposite to Democratization.” Rivista Italiana Di Scienza Politica, vol. 49, no. 2, Cambridge University Press, 2019, pp. 121–38,

Chang, Ha-Joon. Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective. NBN International, 2015.

Cianetti, Licia, and Hanley, Seán. “The End of the Backsliding Paradigm.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 32, no. 1, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021, pp. 66–80.

Coman, Ramona. The Politics of the Rule of Law in the EU Polity: Actors, Tools and Challenges. Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, 2022.

Drezner Daniel W, Farrell, Henry, and Newman, Abraham. The Uses and Abuses of Weaponized Interdependence. Brookings Institution Press, 2021.

Farrell, Henry, and Abraham L. Newman. “Weaponized Interdependence: How Global Economic Networks Shape State Coercion.” International Security, vol. 44, no. 1, MIT Press, 2019, pp. 42–79,

Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and The Last Man. Simon and Schuster, 2006 (1992).

Garcia-Herrero, Alicia, et al. “EU-China Trade and Investment Relations in Challenging Times.” European Parliament, 2020.

Gjesvik, Lars. “Private Infrastructure in Weaponized Interdependence.” Review of International Political Economy : Routledge, pp. 1–25,

Gloria, Enrico V. “Justifying Economic Coercion: The Discourse of Victimhood in China’s Unilateral Sanctions Policy.” Pacific Review, 2021, pp. 1–31,

Harding, Rebecca and Harding, Jack. The Weaponization of Trade: The Great Unbalancing of Politics and Economics. London Publishing Partnership, 2017.

Hopewell, Kristen. “Beyond U.S.-China Rivalry: Rule Breaking, Economic Coercion, and the Weaponization of Trade.” AJIL Unbound, vol. 116, Cambridge University Press, 2022, pp. 58–63,

Ikenberry G. John. Liberal Leviathan : the Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order. Princeton University Press, 2011.

Ikenberry, G. John. “The Rise of China and the Future of the West: Can the Liberal System Survive?” Foreign Affairs, vol. 87, no. 1, Council on Foreign Relations, 2008, pp. 23–37.

Kolodziej, Edward A. Global Governance: Evaluating the Liberal Democratic, Chinese, and Russian Solutions. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2022.

Kristen Hopewell. “Beyond U.S.-China Rivalry: Rule Breaking, Economic Coercion, and the Weaponization of Trade.” AJIL Unbound, vol. 116, Cambridge University Press, 2022, pp. 58–63,

Lai, Christina. “Dancing with the Wolf: Securitizing China-Taiwan Trade in the ECFA Debate and Beyond.” Asian Security (Philadelphia, Pa.), vol. 15, no. 2, Routledge, 2019, pp. 140–58,

Levitsky, Steven and Way, Lucan A. Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War. Cambridge University press, 2010.

Lim, Darren J., and Ferguson, Victor A. “Informal Economic Sanctions: The Political Economy of Chinese Coercion During the THAAD Dispute.” Review of International Political Economy : RIPE, Routledge, pp. 1–24,

Macikenaite, Vida. “China’s Economic Statecraft: The Use of Economic Power in an Interdependent World.” Journal of Contemporary East Asia Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, Routledge, 2020, pp. 108–26,

Pal, Deep. China’s Influence in South Asia: Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2021.

Price, Megan. “Norm Erosion and Australia’s Challenge to the Rules-Based Order.” Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 75, no. 2, Routledge, 2021, pp. 161–77,

Reynolds, Matthew and Goodman, Matthew P. China’s Economic Coercion: Lessons from Lithuania. Center for Strategic and International Studies. 6 May 2022.
Rüland, Jürgen. “Democratic Backsliding, Regional Governance and Foreign Policymaking in Southeast Asia: ASEAN, Indonesia and the Philippines.” Democratization, vol. 28, no. 1, Routledge, 2021, pp. 237–57,

Schlee, René, and Opper, Jan. “Weaponizing the World.” New Perspectives (Prague, Czech Republic), vol. 28, no. 3, SAGE Publications, 2020, pp. 314–29,

Shaffer, Gregory. “Governing the Interface of U.S.-China Trade Relations.” The American Journal of International Law, vol. 115, no. 4, Cambridge University Press, 2021, pp. 622–70,

Slater Dan. Ordering Power : Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Stronski, Paul, and Nicole Ng. Cooperation and Competition: Russia and China in Central Asia, the Russian Far East, and the Arctic. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2018.

Tamaki, Nobuhiko. “Japan’s Quest for a Rules-Based International Order: The Japan-US Alliance and the Decline of US Liberal Hegemony.” Contemporary Politics, vol. 26, no. 4, Routledge, 2020, pp. 384–401,

Teti, Andrea et al. Democratisation Against Democracy : How EU Foreign Policy Fails the Middle East. 1st ed. 2020., Springer International Publishing, 2020.
Tomini, Luca. Democratizing Central and Eastern Europe : Successes and Failures of the European Union. Routledge, 2015.

Tomini, Luca. When Democracies Collapse : Assessing Transitions to Non-Democratic Regimes in the Contemporary World. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.

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Case studies

Methodological Strategy: Triangulation of data will be mobilized. Guided by previous research, quantitative survey data and statistical data on economic performance, this paper will conduct semi-structured elite interviews (and decision-makers in the EU and Japan, as well as their neighborhood countries, ASEAN officials, scholars, NGO activists, business operators, etc.), and content analysis of relevant policy frameworks and instruments to process-trace the transformations in economic conditions and political characters of the neighborhood countries, and the adaptive strategies of the EU and Japan to strengthen their democratic support in the regions. A number of detailed archival analysis and media mapping will also be conducted to enrich the comparative political analysis.

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.

Societal relevance

To address the stated research puzzle and questions, this study will mobilize the interdisciplinary literatures on the political economy of democracy/ democratization and economic development, coupled with the literature on the competing governance models (namely the liberal democratic vision and the authoritarian ones promoted by Russia and China). The necessity to draw references from the intersection of politics, economics, and governance could be summed by Kolodziej (2022): “Given the porousness of state boundaries, global politics is no longer just a struggle among nations for power, nor just what economic system will produce the most material wealth and equitably distribute that welfare among a population. Nor is the struggle just about who has a right to rule and who is obliged to obey. All three dimensions of governance – the geopolitical order, global economic systems, and contending claims of legitimacy – must be understood, as the moving, perpetually interactive, and mutually contingent parts out of which human societies fashion an effective and legitimate government” (xii). Given the interdependent nature of global economy, how the EU and Japan can help foster a more democratic, just, inclusive, and sustainable neighborhood without overtly harming its economy (given trade relations with China and to a lesser extent Russia) may be an important issue in the second part of the analysis. All of the above are socially relevant and salient.
Since little, I have always loved to read and explore diverse theme from books, films, documentaries, and other sorts of publication. My passion for social science and humanities has gradually motivated me to pursue systematic approaches, from the Class of Humanities and Social Sciences in Taipei First Girls High School to Sciences Po. The former, beyond the most academically rigorous high school in Taiwan for females, has opened the door of academic research and seminars to me. And the latter has a special place in my intellectual and personal trajectory. It provides me with motivation and means to broaden my perspectives on current socio-political phenomena through its rigorous academic trainings and research. Sciences Po also motivates me to reach my intellectual heights, through the innovative Capstone Report (bachelor thesis), master thesis, and the rigorous academic trainings over the years at Sciences Po (Menton for bachelor and Paris for master) and the University of Pompeu Fabra (UPF) during my third-year exchange.

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.
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