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Balancing and Hedging in the South China Sea

  • Prof. Cheng-Chwee Kuik
Monday 21 March 2016
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 3
2311 BZ Leiden
Verbarium, Room 104

After a period of relative calm throughout much of the 2000s, tensions surrounding the territorial disputes in the South China Sea have heightened over the past few years. Standoffs at sea and discords on diplomatic sites have made headlines since 2010, even while East Asia is undergoing unprecedented region-wide integration and institutionalization. China’s growing maritime assertiveness since 2008, its massive land reclamation activities since 2013, as well as its recent deployment of missiles and installation of radar facilities on the artificial islands in the disputed waters – most of which taking place side-by-side with the military operations by the United States and its allies and partners – have combined to make increasing militarization and security dilemma a central theme in today’s Asian affairs, posing greater risks to regional stability and prosperity while challenging ASEAN cohesion and centrality. This presentation focuses on the policy responses of the small- and medium-sized Southeast Asian states, addressing why – in light of the recent intensified tensions – the majority of ASEAN member states (with the exception of the Philippines and partial exception of Vietnam) have still chosen to reject classic balancing, and instead opt for hedging. This is evidenced from their insistence of not-taking sides and their adoption of contradictory actions vis-à-vis the competing powers, with an eye to optimize multiple interests and keep a fallback position. The speaker argues that such an approach is likely to continue in the years to come, with implications for the evolving regional architecture and power order in Asia.

Kuik Cheng-Chwee

Kuik Cheng-Chwee is an associate professor at the Strategic Studies and International Relations Program at the National University of Malaysia (UKM). He is concurrently the Coordinator of UKM-IDFR Master’s in Strategy and Diplomacy, a co-convener of UKM’s East Asia and International Relations (EAIR) Forum, and an Associate Fellow at the Institute of China Studies (ICS), University of Malaya (UM). He is formerly a postdoctoral research associate in the Princeton-Harvard “China and the World” Program at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Dr. Kuik researches on weaker states’ alignment behavior, regional multilateralism, Southeast Asia-China relations, and East Asian security. His English and Chinese publications have appeared in Journal of Contemporary China (2016), Asian Politics and Policy (2016 & 2012), International New York Times (2015), Asia Pacific Bulletin (2015), The Asan Forum (2015 & 2014), Chinese Journal of International Politics (2013), Asian Security (2013), Contemporary Southeast Asia (2008 & 2005), Shijie Jingji yu Zhengzhi (2004), as well as various edited books. He is a co-editor (with Alice Ba and Sueo Sudo) of Institutionalizing East Asia: Mapping and Reconfiguring Regional Cooperation (Routledge, 2016). His article “The Essence of Hedging” was awarded “The 2009 Michael Leifer Memorial Prize”, a biennial award established by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in memory of the late Professor Michael Leifer, for the best article published in any of the three ISEAS journals. Cheng-Chwee holds a PhD from the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and an M.Litt. in International Security Studies from the University of St. Andrews. He has held visiting fellowships at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, Lee Kong Chian Reference Library (Singapore), SAIS Southeast Asia Studies Program, American University’s ASEAN Studies Center, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (Jakarta), and Oxford University.

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