The changing international power dynamics characterised by the rise of China and intensifying US-China competition in recent years necessitate a revisit of the study of economic statecraft. They press us to rethink our answers to questions such as “How do states protect and promote their economic actors?” and “What political goals are they trying to achieve when they do so?”
Against this backdrop, The Pacific Review and RSIS co-organised a joint workshop in preparation for the publication’s upcoming Special Issue on “Comparative Economic Statecraft in East Asia” featuring its author.
Held on 7 and 8 June 2022, the workshop provided a “state of the art” review of the nature of economic statecraft in East and Southeast Asia. The participants discussed how to update definitions to advance the study of economic statecraft amidst the changing environment. They debated on what actually counts as economic statecraft given increased informal links between state and non-state actors as well as emerging threats.
The participants identified the different strategies and tactics deployed by non-major powers (e.g. Japan, Indonesia, Australia) to advance their economic statecraft or thwart major powers’ economic statecraft. While the international environment creates constraints on non-major powers, the participants agreed that there exists some leeway for these powers to deploy their economic statecraft to achieve their objectives in specific issue areas. For example, non-major powers readjust their domestic industrial policies to alter their relations with major powers. On other occasions, non-major powers craft rules of regional organisations (e.g. ASEAN) in which major powers participate to manage the relations.
The workshop has enriched works on developmentalism and non-major powers. It also enhanced the broad understanding of regional policy economy in the contemporary world.