Think Tank (July to August 2019)
Assoc Prof Li Mingjiang (right), Coordinator of China Programme, speaking at the workshop
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China and Regionalism in Asia
07 Aug 2019
Kirk Benjamin Tan

The China Programme of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, RSIS, organised a workshop titled “China and Regionalism in Asia” at the NTU Campus Clubhouse on 7 August 2019. Twelve scholars from various countries — including China, India, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States — presented and discussed their research at this one-day workshop.

The workshop focused on various aspects of China’s roles in, and impact on, evolving regionalism in Asia. This was a timely topic for discussion, given ongoing US attempts to condition Asian regionalism through its conception of an “Indo-Pacific” region, at a time when regionalism is challenged owing to the strain in US-China relations.

The workshop comprised five panels, beginning first with a re-thinking of the meaning, nature and history of regionalism in Asia. It was suggested that China’s declining interest in regionalism could be explained by evolving Chinese geo-strategic considerations. The notion of China’s rise being treated as a variable rather than a constant was also talked about as an argument worth re-considering.

The second panel focused on Chinese ideas and debates on regionalism. The participants on this panel recognised that these have evolved substantially under President Xi Jinping’s leadership.

The third and fourth panels looked at different forms and practices of Chinese regionalism, with in-depth analyses of the impact of specific Chinese engagement efforts such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Beijing Xiangshan Forum and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation forum, among others.

The workshop concluded with a panel focused on the United States’ strategic outlook with regard to the “Indo-Pacific” narrative of regionalism.

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