NBR Podcast Interview: Promoting Good Governance in the Global Commons through the US-Japan Alliance

I was recently interviewed by the National Bureau of Asian Research about my research on increasing competition in the outer space, cyberspace, and maritime domains and how countries such as Japan and the United States are responding. Check out the podcast here (with convenient timestamps for the various topics that we covered) or click play below:

This podcast is part of NBR’s ongoing Asia Insight series. Asia Insight features interviews with top Asia experts about key issues affecting the Indo-Pacific region, with a focus on implications for U.S. policy and businesses. You can subscribe to the series on Apple Podcasts.

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New Publication: Crafting Policy for Contested Commons

I’m pleased to announce that my paper “Crafting Policy for Contested Commons: Insights from Japan’s Approach to the Outer Space, Cyberspace, and Maritime Domains” has been published as part of a joint policy paper series entitled “Japan’s Leadership in the Liberal International Order: Impact and Policy Opportunities for Partners.”

My paper examines Japan’s changing approach to the global commons, tracking commonalities across the outer space, cyberspace, and maritime domains. As security threats have emerged in these domains, Japan has continued to uphold the principles of the liberal international order based on rule of law, but it has also hedged against risk by securitizing issues, by turning its existing diplomatic and technological tools to new purposes, and by linking the commons with security structures related to the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the U.S.-Japan alliance. This examination of Japan’s approach to the global commons has broad implications for policy. First, there is a clear need for serious attention to the maintenance and/or construction of governance regimes that will promote the use of the global commons in ways that benefit all countries. Second, the increasingly crowded and competitive environment in the global commons presents new challenges in terms of cultivating consensus and regulating activity, but it also offers opportunities to create coalitions of like-minded countries, and middle powers have an important role to play in this process. Third, the clear parallels in changes across the outer space, cyberspace, and maritime domains suggest that there is something valuable to be gained from fostering dialogue among their respective scholars and practitioners, to find best practices that can be shared or transferred across domains. Although the onset of COVID-19 has drawn the attention of many countries away from developments outside their national borders, it has not lessened the importance of these issues—indeed, there is evidence that the global pandemic may be providing a convenient distraction that is enabling additional incursions in these domains and further eroding norms regarding their shared use.

The paper series as a whole examines Japan’s remarkable leadership on various dimensions of global and regional economic governance, including trade governance, economic and data governance, regional rules-based order, and environmental governance, asking: How significant is this new phase of Japanese international leadership in historical perspective? What factors are driving this new global leadership? What are implications for Japan’s partners, including Canada, and the US?

The series also features pieces by Vinod Aggarwal (University of California, Berkeley), Alan Alexandroff (University of Toronto), Leslie Elliott Armijo (Simon Fraser University), Joseph Caron (University of British Columbia), Grace Jaramillo (Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada), Saori Katada (University of Southern California), Masahiro Kawai (University of Tokyo), Phillip Lipscy (University of Toronto), Jeffrey Kucharski (Royal Roads University), Harutaka Takenaka (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies), T.J. Pempel (University of California, Berkeley), Sayuri Romei (Wilson Center), Mireya Solis (Brookings Institution), Hiroki Takeuchi (Southern Methodist University), and Yves Tiberghien (University of British Columbia).

The series was jointly published by:

  • Centre for Japanese Research, Institute of Asian Research School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia
  • Centre for the Study of Global Japan and Global Summitry Project, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto
  • Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
  • Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo
  • Pacific Forum
  • Berkeley APEC Study Center, University of California, Berkeley
  • Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, University of California, San Diego

My thanks go to the University of British Columbia and the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada for providing the support for me to attend the conference for which these papers were initially written, which was held at the University of British Columbia in January 2020. This UBC conference was held back-to-back with the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s conference on “The Free and Open Indo-Pacific: Charting A Common Approach,” where I also gave a talk on “Designing Trade Architecture for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” This back-to-back structure allowed many participants to engage in both events, resulting in much productive dialogue between academics and policymakers.

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Webinar: Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy Amid COVID-19 and Beyond

I was pleased to speak at a virtual public seminar on “Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy Amid COVID-19 and Beyond” on July 1, 2020. I was joined by Dr. Crystal Pryor, Director of Non-proliferation, Technology, and Fellowships at Pacific Forum. A video of the webinar is available above.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated headlines around the world in 2020 and complicated an already tangled web of political, economic, and security dynamics in the Asian region. The webinar addressed recent developments in Japan’s domestic affairs as well as its external diplomacy, including questions such as: How has COVID-19 affected Japanese politics and the outlook for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? Have there been significant shifts in Japanese foreign economic and security policy during the pandemic, or do we see more continuity than change?

This event was hosted by the East-West Center and co-sponsored by Pacific Forum, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Center for Japanese Studies, and the University of Hawai‘i Department of Asian Studies.

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Introducing Summer 2020 Research Team

I’m very happy to introduce the talented group of research assistants that I am working with this summer on projects related to Japanese politics and political economy:

Melody Chung is a fourth-year student at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa majoring in Japanese. She is interested in Japanese language and culture, international relations, and foreign policy. Melody has studied abroad in Japan twice: she spent a year studying in Kobe at Konan University and a semester studying in Kyoto at Ritsumeikan University.

Asia Dobbs recently graduated with an M.A. in Asian Studies (Japan focus) from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and is interested in social issues in Japan. She was the recipient of a 2019–2020 Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship for Japanese and previously worked as a research assistant for the UH Mānoa library’s Takazawa Collection, where she managed materials related to leftist social movements in Japan. Prior to attending UH Mānoa, Asia completed a B.A. in Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Asia has accepted a position as an international education consultant in Japan.

Lillian McIntyre is a fourth-year student at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa pursuing a B.A. in Japanese and a B.F.A. in Painting. She is interested in wafuku and kitsuke, as well as oil painting. Lillian was an intern at the Ehime Prefectural International Center in Matsuyama, Japan in 2019 and studied abroad in Florence, Italy during Fall 2018.

Iroha Mochida is a fourth-year student at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa majoring in Asian Studies with a major area focus on Japan and a minor area focus on Southeast Asia. She is interested in traditional arts in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly ethnic music and dance. Iroha previously interned at the University of Hawai‘i International Student Services Office.

The work of this research team has been generously supported by funding from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Pacific and Asian Studies, the National Asia Research Program, and a Faculty Mentoring Grant for Summer Undergraduate Research and Creative Works.

If you are interested in joining us, please contact me. Volunteer opportunities and opportunities for course credit are currently available. I am also willing to mentor students who are interested in applying for related project funding from the UH Mānoa Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

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Paid Undergraduate Research Opportunity: Deadline May 18

Are you a currently enrolled UH Manoa undergraduate student with intermediate or advanced Japanese language skills? Want to earn money while learning about the social science research process and statistical analysis? Apply by Monday, May 18 to work with Professor Kristi Govella of the Asian Studies Program on a mentored research project this summer.

This work for this research position can be done from anywhere—all activities are online. No previous research experience or statistical training is required. Students from all majors are welcome to apply.

The student will work collaboratively with Professor Govella to examine foreign firms in Japan, and the undergraduate will also have an opportunity to shape his or her own independent project. The student will meet with the professor on a regular basis to discuss progress and get feedback. This is an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience with social science research and build skills for graduate school or future employment. Through this project, the student will learn how to code quantitative data, formulate a research question, and conduct a descriptive statistical analysis of the data they have coded.

Position pays $11.65/hour up to a maximum of $2,330 total for the summer. Dates and schedule are negotiable.

In order to be eligible for this opportunity, you must…

  • Be a current undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (not graduating before the end of Summer 2020)
  • Have access to a computer and the Internet
  • Possess research competency in English
  • Possess intermediate to advanced Japanese language skills
  • Not be concurrently funded with UROP Project Funding in Summer 2020

Application Instructions: Access the official job listing at this link (or search for Job Number 253776 on the SECE job listings website) and submit a cover letter, resume, and transcript through the SECE system. The cover letter should include a description of how well you meet the required qualifications, including a description of your Japanese language training/ability.

If you have any questions, contact Professor Kristi Govella at kgovella@hawaii.edu.

A description of the project is below:

Although many countries have opened their markets to foreign firms, there is significant variation in how these firms behave once they enter a host country. Why do multinational firms abroad push for market liberalization in some cases but condone protectionism in others? Japan provides a fruitful context in which to examine these firms because its market was remarkably closed until a relative boom in inward foreign direct investment in the 1990s and 2000s. Therefore, analyzing the ways in which the presence and behavior of foreign firms changed over this time period can illuminate the ways that specific trade policies influenced firms and vice versa. The undergraduate student working on this project will collaborate with a professor to code quantitative data from Japanese-language books that provide a wealth of information on the presence and characteristics of foreign firms in Japan, and their data will be combined with other data describing these firms’ political activity to create a new dataset that will generate new insights on the changing landscape of trade politics in Japan. The findings of the broader project will contribute to the existing scholarly literature by demonstrating how trade policy shapes firms’ behavior, interests, and corresponding political strategies in ways that influence the future trajectory of not only Japan but also the global political economy. This work will shed light on how globalization is reshaping the political arena in countries around the world.

This project is supported by a Faculty Mentoring Grant for Summer Undergraduate Research and Creative Works, sponsored by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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PAAC Global Vision Summit: Trade Wars

I had a great time participating in the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council‘s 2020 Global Vision Summit on Trade Wars on March 7, which brought together high school students from across Hawaii for an interactive simulation. Students participated in three rounds of trade negotiations, starting under relatively simple conditions and then getting progressively more complex. The last round introduced the concept of tariffs to enable students to see how trade barriers affect the flow of goods.

After the simulation, I joined Steven Craven and Mark Elwell on an expert panel. The students were energized and engaged, and they asked excellent questions about supply chains, monopolies, labor rights, technology, etc. that revealed how much they’d learned. According to students’ feedback, they left feeling much more informed about the dynamics of trade and the relationship of trade to other domestic and international issues.

This was my third time participating in PAAC’s Global Vision Summit, and it was another rewarding experience. Check out past years here:

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Invited Talk: Designing Trade Architecture for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific

I traveled to Vancouver, Canada at the invitation of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada to speak at their conference on “The Free and Open Indo-Pacific: Charting a Common Approach” on January 22–23, 2020. The conference explored different states’ understanding of the FOIP concept as it applies to their domestic, foreign, and security policy-making processes.

I spoke on “Designing Trade Architecture for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific” as part of the panel on FOIP Economic Interconnectivity. Other participants included Mr. Steve Dechka (Japan-Canada Chambers Council), Dr. Masahiro Kawai (Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia), Mr. Michael Rau (Natural Resources Canada), and Ms. Deanna Horton (University of Toronto). The following is a summary of my comments:

Although many countries have incorporated economic elements into their evolving thinking on the Indo-Pacific, their goals vary. How can we think about designing trade architecture for the [Free and Open] Indo-Pacific? Looking at the current state of existing agreements and proposals, it is clear that none of them encompass all of the countries in this region, even by its narrowest definition.

If they wish to expand current trade architecture to encompass the Indo-Pacific, countries face challenges related to regional economic diversity, inclusivity, leadership, and varying preferences for the quality of trade pacts and linking them to other issues. If you asked different countries to design their ideal Indo-Pacific trade architecture right now, they would very likely resolve these challenges in different ways. It’s important to recognize that and assess if/how these differences might be resolved in the near or long term.

Regional economic diversity means that leaders face tradeoffs in designing more inclusive lower-quality trade agreements versus pacts that pursue higher standards that will exclude some countries. Also, the domestic politics of trade are increasingly contentious. everywhere. If India is indeed out of RCEP, the “Indo” is conspicuously absent from the trade architecture of the Indo-Pacific. Economic integration within South Asia and between South Asia and other parts of the region has room for a great deal of improvement. Given the centrality of China to the regional economy, it would be strange to exclude it from an Indo-Pacific trade architecture, but this sits uncomfortably with some countries, given their concerns about security and about Chinese economic practices. If the geographic scope of the Indo-Pacific is expanded even further, as some countries have suggested should be the case, then the existing trade architecture also needs to be correspondingly broadened in ways that may pose additional difficulties.

National preferences also diverge as to whether potential trade architecture for the Indo-Pacific should be explicitly or implicitly linked to other issues related to human security, non-traditional security, or security. This is important to recognize and discuss.

It was exciting to hear all of the evolving ideas about the Indo-Pacific at this conference. The diversity of regional discourse is challenging but also really productive—and it’s wonderful that Canada is thinking proactively about how to engage more with the region. Given the weakness of American leadership on trade and other issues right now, there is actually more room for countries like Canada, Japan, Australia, and others to influence emerging regional governance structures, so these discussions are particularly important right now.

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Panel Discussion: “The New Era for Japan” at Japan House LA

Left to right: Dr. Saori Katada, Dr. Fukunari Kimura, Dr. Kristi Govella, Ms. Christine Peterson

On December 12, I visited Japan House Los Angeles for an event on “The New Era for Japan: Business, Economy and Regional Security.” I was happy to share the stage with Dr. Saori Katada (USC), Dr. Fukunari Kimura (Keio & ERIA), and Ms. Christine Peterson (Mayor’s Office at the City of Los Angeles) for a wide-ranging panel discussion of trade and investment in Asia. Topics included Abenomics, CPTPP, RCEP, the US-Japan bilateral trade agreement, the US-China trade war, the Belt and Road Initiative, demographic change, female labor force participation, and more.

Other participants included Dr. Harutaka Takenaka (GRIPS), Dr. Sheila Smith (Council on Foreign Relations), Dr. Gene Park (Loyola Marymount), and Dr. Michael Thies (UCLA). There were also opening remarks by Consul General Akira Muto and Japan House LA President Yuko Kaifu, as well as a keynote speech by Ambassador Nina Hachigian, Deputy Mayor of International Affairs at the City of Los Angeles.

View the full program

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Senior Korean Journalist Security Forum

On September 17, I was a panelist in a roundtable discussion with Richard Vuylsteke, Denny Roy, and James Minnich at the East-West Center as part of the 2019 Senior Korean Journalist Security Forum.

East-West Center President Richard Vuylsteke kicked off the session with opening remarks, followed by comments by EWC Senior Fellow Denny Roy on North Korea and by APCSS Professor James Minnich on the ROK-US alliance. I spoke about recent tensions between South Korea and Japan from a US perspective, highlighting three key impacts on the regional and global economic and security environment. I also suggested some opportunities and limitations related to a role for the United States in mediating the dispute.

The roundtable was attended by representatives from Hankyoreh, Yonhap, Kungwon Domin Ilbo, Kukmin Ilbo, Korea Press Foundation, Seoul Shinmun, Chosun Ilbo, YTN, SBS, MBC, Dong-A Ilbo, Maeil Kyungje, JoongAng Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, and Korea News Editors’ Association, as well as US Embassy Seoul.

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Invited Lecture at US Army Japan

With Command Sergeant Major Scott Beeson, Major General Viet Luong, and staff

On August 2, I had the pleasure of visiting US Army Japan to give a presentation entitled “The Abe Security Reforms: Drivers and Constraints, Opportunities and Challenges” as part of their Leadership Professional Development Seminar series at Camp Zama. The lecture situated recent developments under the Abe administration in political, social, and historical context, providing an overview of the key domestic and international factors shaping Japan’s contemporary security policy and suggesting some challenges and opportunities that Abe’s reforms may present for the US in the future.

Thanks to US Army Japan for extending this invitation to me and for the great conversation!

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