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

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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New Publication: Technology and Tensions in the Global Commons

I’m happy to announce that my article, “Technology and Tensions in the Global Commons,” is now available in the latest issue of Fletcher Security Review. I argue that advances in and diffusion of technology have transformed the global commons into increasingly crowded domains characterized by interstate competition and heightened tensions. Whether these tensions prevail depends on the creation and strengthening of regimes to manage interactions and promote shared rules and norms.

Read more:

Kristi Govella, “Technology and Tensions in the Global Commons.” Fletcher Security Review, vol 6., no. 1 (Summer 2019), pp. 38-44.

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New Publication in The Washington Post

My article on President Trump’s recent visit to Japan was published this morning in the Monkey Cage column on The Washington Post website. While Prime Minister Abe and President Trump succeeded in orchestrating an impressive display of the strengths of the US-Japan relationship, some tensions were also visible during the trip, particularly on the issues of trade and North Korea.

Read the full article

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US-Japan Network for the Future

I’m pleased to announced that I have been selected as a member of the fifth cohort of the US-Japan Network for the Future. The US-Japan Network for the Future is a two-year program designed to build and enhance a network of Japan specialists that can bring diverse expertise and perspectives to the bilateral policy-making process in the mid- and long-term. This will lead to deeper and more vigorous dialogue and research on topics of immediate concern as well as on ways to strengthen the US-Japan relationship through cooperation and shared goals in the global arena. The network includes US-Japan specialists from all regions of the United States and Japan. This program is supported by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

Throughout the two-year program, participants are expected to: develop their network of contacts; engage with other Network members; engage others in the academic and policy fields with what they have learned about Japan; prepare for and actively participate in the program’s meetings, workshops, and study trip; participate in group activities and support the program’s larger goals and objectives; conduct independent research on key issues of particular interest to them; produce op-ed pieces, commentaries, and blog posts on important policy issues in U.S.-Japan relations; and produce and seek to publish or otherwise disseminate a brief policy paper. Network participants present their papers and discuss current issues in the region during the program’s last meeting, a public symposium in Washington, D.C. The program covers the costs of travel, accommodations, and meals associated with participation in program meetings and study trips.

Press Release from the Mansfield Foundation

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