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Populism, Nationalism and South China Sea Dispute: Chinese and Southeast Asian Perspectives

时间:2022-03-28 作者:Nian Peng

 
Nian Peng&Chow Bing Negow (eds.), Populism, Nationalism and South China Sea Dispute: Chinese and Southeast Asian Perspectives (Singapore: Springer Nature, 2022).

 
About this book
 
This book analyzes two main trends of prevailing populism and nationalism in China and Southeast Asian nations and rising tensions in the South China Sea (SCS) by experts from China and Southeast Asia. The book involves the most recent developments and indicates future trends. This is the first book which goes deeply into the SCS dispute from the perspectives on populism and nationalism and thus highlighting their significance in Asian politics. The broad approach adopted in the book with focus on all important countries expands the scope of readership beyond specific academic community. The book interests academics, policy makers, journalists, general reader, and students of Asian politics.
 
The main content of the book is divided into eight parts. In the first part, Nian Peng briefly introduced the main aim and content of this book. He also examines the different roles of nationalism in the maritime standoff between China and some ASEAN claimant states in the past decade from a Chinese perspective, and explores the main reasons behind China’s quite different tactics of manipulating the nationalism to legitimize and support its actions in the disputed waters of the SCS in Chapter 2. He points out that the nature of the dispute (territorial integrity or maritime interests) and Chinese leaders’ delicate trade-off between sovereignty protection and stability maintenance are the determining factors of China’s manipulation of nationalism in the SCS dispute. In order to verify this argument, he analyzes China’s use of nationalism in its three major standoff with the Philippines and Vietnam in the SCS in 2012, 2014 and 2019 respectively. He finally predicts that China’s response to the SCS dispute would continue to be influenced by the rising nationalism amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, due to the high pressures on domestic development and the top priority of the stability maintenance in the SCS, China is more likely to restrain the nationalism in the SCS dispute.
 
Aries A. Arugay uses the concept of performative populism to analyze Duterte’s foreign policy, particularly toward the SCS dispute in Chapter 3. He argues that as a specific political style of conducting foreign policy, populism can reorient established positions and biases but in turn generates uncertainty and erosion of credibility in the face of weak institutions and domestic distractions. He traces the changes that Duterte’s government instituted on the issue by embarking on more diplomatic and multi-faceted approach that includes trade, defense cooperation, joint development, infrastructure, and others. He also examines the prospects of Duterte’s foreign policy given existing strategic realities, bureaucratic politics, and domestic political stability.
 
Xiao Luo investigates the double-edged sword effect of Vietnam’s nationalistic SCS policy in Chapter 4. He points out that the nationalism has become a powerful tool for assisting Vietnam in its fight against China, such as consolidating legitimacy of the government and enhancing mobilization of social resource, promoting the implementation of its SCS policy, as well as strengthening China’s concerns about Vietnam and enlisting the assistance of the US and Japan. Nonetheless, Vietnam risks losing control of nationalism and incurring the cost of blind exclusion of China. The rising nationalism, as he said, severely limits Vietnam’s ability to reach necessary compromises on the SCS dispute, amplifies the negative impacts of a potential arbitration on the legitimacy of the Vietnamese regime. He finally concludes that the dilemma of Vietnam’s nationalistic SCS policy will be more obvious as the great-power rivalry in the SCS becomes more intense.
 
Chow-Bing Ngeow and Nur Shahadah Jamil examines the three different layers of sub-national nationalism within Malaysia, including Malay nationalism, ethnic Chinese nationalism, and state nationalism in Sabah and Sarawak, and how these different forms of sub-national nationalism react to the SCS dispute in Chapter 5. They conclude that nationalist sentiments in Malaysia have been so far much more restrained and moderate than other claimant states, and argue that Malaysian nationalism has been somewhat geared more inwardly towards nation-building rather than manifesting itself outwardly and territorially. Given this, Malaysian nationalism on the SCS dispute has been generally much less fierce.
Klaus Heinrich Raditio and Ardhitya Eduard Yeremia aims to demonstrate the limit of domestic populism in shaping Indonesia’s SCS policy in Chapter 6. They argue that although the SCS have experienced heightened tension in both eras of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and Jokowi, SBY tended to conceal the incidents from the public eye while Jokowi no longer conceal the incidents in the Natuna waters from the public eye. In practice, SBY dedicated his foreign policy to construct Indonesia’s role as regional leaders and honest broker in the SCS issue. But Jokowi has placated the public anxiety by showing a firm gesture in defending the country’s sovereign rights. They finally conclude that the public fuss around the Natuna waters incidents is deemed unnecessary since Jokowi government intends to secure the economic cooperation with China.
 
Irene Chan examines Singapore’s perspectives on the SCS issue as a non-claimant country in Chapter 7. She deems that Singapore has not been affected by the wave of populist movements because of the resilience of authoritarian Singapore state. Further, she analyzes the main reasons that Singapore has not changed its longstanding perspectives on the SCS issue, despite the rise of global populism and pressure from the Sino-US strategic competition. She finally concludes that Singapore’s perspectives on the SCS issue will remain consistent for the foreseeable future as there is no serious impetus for a shift or major change in Singapore’s fundamental foreign policy principles.
 
Neak Chandarith and Sam Ath Sambath Sreysour explore the domestic populist and nationalist sentiments in Cambodia, examine their implications on the SCS dispute, and suggest ways to reduce their negative effects in Chapter 8. They conclude that the non-claimant, small states are vulnerable to populist and nationalist politics in the SCS dispute. The more restrictive the domestic setting and the international environment, the harder it is for them to maneuver. Therefore, they suggest the claimant states, non-claimant states and regional powers make concerted effort to acknowledge and address the fundamental dichotomy behind populism and nationalism, and to orient their inspirations from nothing but the benefits of people beyond just groups and borders; promote the indiscriminate multilateralism and inclusive development through a complex system of interdependence among states; further generate arrangements to serve as platforms for socialization, interconnectedness, and confidence-building among the parties involved in the SCS issue.
 
 
Editors and Affiliations

Nian Peng
Research Centre for SAARC States(RCSS), Hainan Normal University, Haikou, China
 
Chow-Bing Ngeow
Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia