RSIS Seminar by Dr Adam Garfinkle and Associate Professor Ahmed Hashim

The US targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani on a visit to Iraq is the biggest game-changing event in the Middle East in many years. Motives, implications and long-range consequences for multiple actors in and beyond the region are now matters of intense scrutiny amid much uncertainty. Dr Adam Garfinkle, a former member of the US State Department’s Policy Planning staff, Middle East policy specialist and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at RSIS, and Associate Professor Ahmed Hashim, Head of Horizon Threats and Strategies in RSIS’ Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, will sketch the issues at play.

RSIS Distinguished Public Dialogue with Professor Michael E. Brown and Dr Bates Gill

The foreign policy of any great power is a projection of its domestic political culture, its perception of a wider interest, and its concept of place and purpose in the world. In the case of the United States, the premier great power of the post-World War II era, all three of these elements are now in flux. America is presently wrestling with a constitutional crisis, lacks a consensus as to its core international interests, and it is consequently struggling to define a strategic direction. Yet the institutional structure of the international order remains to a significant degree a legacy of American energy and ideas. A seismic shift in American behaviour must therefore bear implications for the whole world. Given these developments, this Dialogue will focus on the impact of US domestic upheaval on American foreign policy, international order, regional security and the interests of Southeast Asia and Singapore.

RSIS Distinguished Public Lecture by Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü

There have been several attempts to ban the use of chemical weapons (CWs). However, it took almost a century to reach a global ban on these weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which entered into force in 1997 prohibited the production, stockpiling and use of CWs, under the verification of the Organization for the Prohibition of CWs(OPCW).

The implementation of the CWC over the past twenty-two years has been successful. 193 countries joined the OPCW. 97% of declared stockpiles declared by eight member states, including Syria, have so far been destroyed under the verification the OPCW. The remaining stocks in the United States will be eliminated by 2023. In view of this progress the member countries have decided to focus more on the prevention of the reemergence of CWs.

In spite of this multilateralist success which is also recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, CWs were used in Syria, Iraq, Malaysia and the United Kingdom over the past six years. These incidents led the international community to consider different measures to deter further uses of CWs and to strengthen the international norm against such weapons. The erosion of the taboo against CWs would undermine one of the important pillars of the international order. This should be prevented.

However, there are political challenges. The OPCW membership is divided. States Parties supporting the Syrian Government are questioning the impartiality and the credibility of mechanisms established to investigate CW attacks in Syria. The UN Security Council could not agree on resolutions based on reports by investigative mechanisms. This situation prevents the international community from taking effective measures mitigating the risks for our security. It is imperative to overcome these problems for the well being, security and prosperity of our peoples.

RSIS Seminar by Dr Chen Xi

Has the curtain of geo-technological (geo-tech) competition between China and the United States been raised? Will more Chinese ICT companies be on the sanctions list of American authorities in the future? Can the damages of China-U.S. geo-tech competition be mitigated? What are the impacts of China-U.S. geo-tech competition on the rest of the world? This public seminar will address these questions. It will analyse China’s responses to the trade war and key areas of contention in the geo-tech rivalry between China and the US. In addition, the speaker will discuss China’s possible defense and offense strategies: the further opening up of Chinese domestic market, global merge and acquisition activities, improvement in higher education, and cooperation with other major players in third-country markets.

RSIS Seminar Series on Understanding the Contemporary United States by Dr Adam Garfinkle

Contrary to most opinion in the Western world and in U.S. academia, the problem with the Trump foreign policy is not its rejection of multilateralism and the so-called international community.  It is rather its failure to use diplomacy and, above all, its consistent signaling of policy incoherence and  irresolution to use U.S. power in reliable and constructive ways.

RSIS Distinguished Public Lecture by Professor Andrew Walter 4 October 2019

In this lecture, Professor Andrew Walter will explore how rising financial fragility and the wealth shocks associated with major financial crises have contributed to the rise of political populism in many countries. He argues these developments have had ongoing consequences for domestic politics, international relations and global economic stability. In many advanced and emerging countries subject to these shocks, dissatisfaction with mainstream politics has been rising sharply. This has threatened longstanding rules and norms of domestic and international politics, as well as prospects for peace and prosperity in Asia and beyond.

The lecture considers common explanations for these developments, including cultural backlash and rising income inequality. The role of wealth shocks and inequality warrant more attention than they have received. Households in many emerging and high income countries have become increasingly dependent on risky housing and pension wealth for access to key goods including education, healthcare and retirement services. The rising cost and limits on access to these goods have “squeezed” many households, producing growing anxiety, perceptions of rising competition for scarce resources, and sometimes threats to their social status and identity. Many see mainstream politics as having done little to address these concerns and often as exacerbating them. Populist politicians have seized on this political opportunity and produced new challenges to the domestic and international policy establishment. The lecture will also consider what, if anything, can be done to address these challenges.

The lecture develops themes addressed in Professor Walter’s new book, The Wealth Effect: How the Great Expectations of the Middle Class Have Changed the Politics of Banking Crises (Cambridge University Press, 2019), written with Professor Jeffrey Chwieroth of the London School of Economics and Political Science. This book was recently recommended by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times (London) as a best read in economics, Summer 2019. It uses extensive historical and contemporary evidence to demonstrate that the politics of major banking crises have been transformed by the “wealth effect”: rising middle class wealth has generated “great expectations” regarding government responsibilities for the protection of this wealth. It shows that crisis policy interventions have become more extensive and costly – and their political aftermaths far more fraught – because of democratic governance, not in spite of it. Using data from a large number of democracies over two centuries, and detailed historical studies of Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States, the book breaks new ground in exploring the consequences of the emergence of mass political demand for financial stabilisation.

RSIS Distinguished Public Lecture by Professor Steve Chan 2 September 2019

“Thucydides’s Trap” claims that the danger of war increases when a “rising state” approaches or overtakes a “ruling state’s” power. It offers the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta some 2,500 years ago as an analogy for understanding the cause behind rising tension between contemporary China and the U.S. How helpful is this analogy and its monocausal explanation of war? How strong is this explanation’s validity such as with respect to its designation of “rising” and “ruling” states, and its selection and interpretation of past instances of interstate power shift and war? Thucydides’s own account tells us that there are multiple, concurrent pathways to war. Human agency, especially people’s capacity to learn from the past, should be considered in addition to structural constraints. Interstate power shifts are neither necessary nor sufficient for war to occur; they represent just one of several factors creating a combination that endangers peace. In addressing contemporary Sino-American relations, we should consider how other variables such as timing, location, alliance commitments, and racial identity can mitigate or exacerbate the influence of power shifts on war occurrence.

The S. T. Lee Distinguished Annual Lecture by Dr Volker Perthes

Three grand schemes characterise the international order today and put it to a test: new rivalries of great powers, the rise of uncertainty and insecurity in international relations and the decline of the liberal world order. Big players like the United States and China are major driving forces behind these factors, all the while a growing number of more diverse local and regional conflicts call to the attention of the international community. This lecture provides a view from the EU on the chances and challenges that arise from the decline of the global order as we know it.

APPSMO 2019 Distinguished Lecture by Professor Wang Gungwu

It is a cliché to talk about “unchanging China”. Actually China changed continuously since it first appeared in the Yellow River valleys. The latest nationalist and communist revolutions show how Chinese leaders were not afraid of change when drastic steps had to be taken. What was peculiar was that, wherever possible, they tried to anchor new ideas and institutions in old control structures that they had found successful. This applied whether the pressures they encountered were domestic or foreign.  The question was, which was more urgent and more dangerous to the power system and needed prior attention. During the past century, domestic and external dangers seemed to have alternated. What is interesting is, does China today see domestic imperatives as more urgent and dangerous than foreign ones?