New Publication: Avoiding and Exploiting the Tragedy of the Commons: Fishing, Crime, and Conflict in the South China Sea

My article “Avoiding and Exploiting the Tragedy of the Commons: Fishing, Crime, and Conflict in the South China Sea” has been published in International Politics.

What factors have driven the dramatic depletion of fishery resources in the South China Sea, and how have states responded? This article demonstrates that a complex mix of political, economic, and security drivers has led to the fishing crisis in the South China Sea in the fashion of a classic “tragedy of the commons.” Although states have attempted to solve this problem by cooperating through bilateral, regional, and international arrangements, the article argues that states have also sought to exploit the situation as part of “hybrid” or “gray zone” strategies that blur the lines between private and public actors and between law enforcement and military activities.

Specifically, the article identifies four mechanisms through which the conditions associated with the tragedy of the commons enable states to put fishers and fishing regulation on the frontlines of defending their territorial claims in the South China Sea. First, the structure of incentives surrounding fish stocks as a common-pool resource results in overfishing and overcapacity, which means that there is an abundance of fishers in relation to the number of fish that are available to be caught and the amount of time that can productively be spent fishing. Second, this excess of idle fishers presents states with an opportunity to hire these individuals as part-time militia, or, alternatively, to disguise militia members as fishers. Third, the existence of illicit activity related to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing creates a need for states to enforce their fishing regulations and protect their fishers, which creates opportunities for states to assert that disputed maritime territory falls under their jurisdiction by apprehending foreign fishing boats. Fourth, the need for effective laws and regulations to combat IUU fishing and to sustainably manage fishery resources grants states an opportunity to strategically enact domestic legislation covering contested waters, resulting in additional occasions for law enforcement activities directed toward IUU fishing that may further establish control and legitimate claims. In short, amid the problems and disorder created by the tragedy of the commons, states can craft strategies that maintain ambiguity about their intentions as well as about the identities and motivations of the non-state actors involved, enabling them to bolster their sovereignty claims by establishing de facto control over contested waters.

There are several ways to access this article:

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New Publication: The Role of the United Nations in Japanese Foreign Policy and Security Architecture

My chapter “The Role of the United Nations in Japanese Foreign Policy and Security Architecture” was recently published in Non-Western Nations and the Liberal International Order: Responding to the Backlash in the West edited by Shin-Wha Lee and Jagannath Panda. This edited volume is part of the Routledge Studies on Think Asia series.

After joining the United Nations (UN) in 1956, Japan became an active member and one of its top financial contributors. What role does the UN play in Japan’s security policy and in its vision of the emerging global and regional security architecture? This chapter argues that the UN has long been an important part of Japanese foreign policy, and it was particularly central to Japan’s attempts to expand its contributions to international security in response to criticism of its response to the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s. During subsequent years, Japan embraced UN peacekeeping operations as a core component of its new security contributions. Given the troubled legacy of Japan’s actions in World War II and its constitutional constraints on military activity, the UN provided an important source of legitimacy for the country’s more proactive security role, allowing it to limit the scope of its involvement and to justify its activities to internal and external audiences. In terms of security architecture, Japan has combined a broad focus on the global security role of the UN with a more specific focus on regional security mechanisms to address issues in Northeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. With respect to Northeast Asia, the US-Japan security alliance plays the primary role in Japan’s thinking about its own national security, particularly in response to potential threats from China and North Korea. Japan has also engaged with broader regional institutions, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and issue-specific regional forums. Most recently, Japan has articulated a broad vision for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” through which it has sought to engage with a wider range of regional actors, and it has pushed for the reinvigoration of the Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue, which brings Japan together with the US, Australia and India. Through this combination of regional and global security institutions, Japan has sought to address a variety of traditional and non-traditional security challenges, as well as to influence norms and attitudes towards its own contributions to international security.

There are several ways to access my chapter:

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New Publication: From Trade Laggard to Trade Leader: Japan’s Role in Countering the Backlash Against Globalization

My chapter “From Trade Laggard to Trade Leader: Japan’s Role in Countering the Backlash Against Globalization” was recently published in Non-Western Nations and the Liberal International Order: Responding to the Backlash in the West edited by Hiro Katsumata and Hiroki Kusano. This edited volume is part of the Routledge Advances in International Relations and Global Politics series.

In recent years, the world has witnessed a significant backlash against globalization. However, Japan is a puzzling outlier: while it shares many characteristics with countries like the United States and the United Kingdom that are experiencing waves of populism and protectionism, it has not followed their trajectory. Instead, Japan has become a leader on trade issues, defending the liberal international economic order. My chapter argues that a combination of external and internal factors has led Japan to possess both the motivation and the flexibility to take action to stabilize the international status quo. Externally, the Japanese government perceives benefits from the liberal international economic order that it wishes to maintain. Internally, Japan’s economic and social policies have limited the number of domestic actors who have been negatively affected by globalization, and political reforms have strengthened the power of the prime minister vis-à-vis protectionist interests. My chapter also demonstrates that Japan has employed a mix of strategies to counter the backlash against globalization, including direct persuasion, signaling commitment, acting as a surrogate for the US, negotiating new trade agreements, and supporting existing agreements and institutions.

There are several ways to access my chapter:

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New Publication: Governing the Global Commons: Challenges and Opportunities for US-Japan Cooperation

I’m thrilled to announce that my new edited volume Governing the Global Commons: Challenges and Opportunities for US-Japan Cooperation has been published by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. In recent years, the governance regimes of the global commons have faced intensifying challenges due to shifts in the international political, economic, and security environment. In particular, the maritime, outer space, and cyber domains—areas that are crucial for both military and commercial purposes—are under stress due to the rise of China, advances in technology, the multiplication of state and non-state actors operating in the commons, and the emergence of behavior such as gray zone tactics that are difficult to regulate. The result is an increasing crowded and contested set of global commons.

The United States and Japan have been drawn closer together by these issues—by their common interests in maintaining a rules-based international system as well as by their shared values. Both countries stand to benefit from strengthening the governance of the global commons in ways that will continue to support their own security and prosperity. Both countries also recognize that there is need for reform of existing regimes, and in some cases, construction of new ones. This volume brings together US and Japanese experts on the maritime, outer space, and cyber domains to examine the challenges that both countries identify in the global commons and to provide insights as to how they can jointly address these challenges. What are the key pillars of the existing governance regimes that need to be maintained in each of the three domains, and where are the key areas for reform? In cases where regimes are nascent, what are the best ways to shape their rules and norms? Where are the areas of convergence and divergence in US and Japanese perspectives on governance? What scope do policy makers and experts in the United States and Japan see for bilateral cooperation, and how can bilateral cooperation produce global change?

Part 1 comprises my paper, “Emerging Challenges to Governance in the Maritime, Outer Space, and Cyber Domains and Opportunities for US-Japan Leadership,” which provides an overarching analysis of challenges across the maritime, outer space, and cyber domains. It draws on interviews, primary materials, and academic research, as well as insights from experts who attended a workshop convened by The German Marshall Fund of the United States in May 2022. The resultant analysis reveals clear and persistent differences in the governance regimes of these domains, reflecting their different stages of maturity and the varying nature of the spaces and resources that they seek to govern. However, despite the many differences that exist across these three domains, there are also striking commonalities. In each of these domains, central issues of access to space and to resources continue to be debated, reflecting persistent tensions in stakeholders’ preference for enclosure or openness. In addition to challenges to national security across the three domains, problems related to sustainability and human rights are also increasingly discussed.

This analysis also clearly demonstrates that there are strong synergies in the values and interests of Japan and the United States in the maritime, outer space, and cyber domains. While differences in viewpoints exist between the two countries, there is potential for cooperation, coordination, and consultation on a wide range of matters. In the maritime domain, the paper discusses the potential to address issues related to freedom of navigation, rules for maritime zones, regime legitimacy, fisheries management, human rights at sea, and green shipping. In the outer space domain, it examines space situational awareness, space traffic management, space debris, anti-satellite tests, and space resources. In the cyber domain, it addresses the conflicting norms of openness versus enclosure, privacy and data flows, artificial intelligence, cybercrime, human rights and digital authoritarianism, cognitive warfare, cyber defense norms, and sustainability. While this list of issues is not exhaustive, it offers a starting point from which to begin thinking holistically about governance regimes across the three domains, which is further discussed in the conclusion of this paper.

Part 2 of the volume contains six policy briefs, which examine specific issues in a single domain. Beginning with the maritime domain, John Bradford discusses ways that the coast guards of the United States and Japan can become agents to improve global maritime governance, while Kyoko Hatakeyama focuses specifically on the importance of supporting governance related to freedom of navigation. Moving on to the outer space domain, Saadia Pekkanen examines developing state practice for the governance of outer space resources, and Setsuko Aoki emphasizes the importance of banning direct ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) tests for the safety and sustainability of the domain. Finally, with respect to the cyber domain, James Lewis discusses emerging structures of governance, and Motohiro Tsuchiya explores the emerging challenge of cognitive warfare.

Overall, the two parts of this edited volume demonstrate the importance of the global commons to the United States and Japan and the potential for these two countries to work together to shape a rules-based international order that creates a more sustainable basis for their long-term security and prosperity. In addition to formulating joint tactical responses to specific challenges in the global commons, promoting good governance is an essential part of ensuring that their spaces and resources remain available to state and non-state actors around the world. Discussions of principles, rules, norms, and decision-making procedures must be put at the forefront of diplomacy. While the United States and Japan cannot solve the problems of global commons governance on their own, they have the capacity and influence to make a significant contribution. Moreover, US-Japan bilateral cooperation can serve as a building block for broader regional and international coalitions to achieve their shared governance goals.

Download the edited volume

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Talk: Promoting Good Governance in the Global Commons: The US, Japan, and Beyond

On November 15, The German Marshall Fund of the United States hosted an online event on “Promoting Good Governance in the Global Commons: The US, Japan, and Beyond.” The global commons – areas beyond the sovereign jurisdiction of any single state – have grown increasingly crowded and contested in recent decades due to changes in the political, economic, and security environment.

Thanks to the generous support of the United States-Japan Foundation, I have spent the past year leading a project examining challenges to governance in the maritime, outer space, and cyberspace domains and opportunities for the United States, Japan, and other countries to cooperate to strengthen their rules and norms. The project brought together leading experts from the US and Japan, and this webinar showcased some of our findings, featuring myself, John Bradford (S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies), Saadia Pekkanen (University of Washington), and Motohiro Tsuchiya (Keio University). The discussion was moderated by Tobias Harris (GMF).

Our new report on “Governing the Global Commons: Challenges and Opportunities for US-Japan Cooperation” will be released in November.

Watch the video on YouTube

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Podcast Interview: How is the Quad Progressing?

I had a great time talking with Hayley Channer (Perth USAsia Centre) on her podcast 15 Minutes in Canberra about the evolution of the Quad and where the grouping is headed next. Our wide-ranging conversation drew upon my recent research, including my papers on with The Future of the Quad and the Emerging Architecture in the Indo-Pacific (with Garima Mohan) and Expanding Engagement among South Korea and the Quad Countries in the Indo-Pacific (with Garima Mohan and Bonnie Glaser) and my edited volume on Building a Quad-South Korea Partnership for Climate Action.

The podcast was released on the heels of the September 23 Quad ministerial meeting, where the four countries’ foreign ministers made several announcements regarding cooperation related to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-terrorism, ransomware, and maritime domain awareness.

Listen to the podcast

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Talk: Trust Building in Asia in an Era of Great Power Competition

I was honored to address several hundred attendees of the Victoria Forum on August 30 as part of a panel on Trust Building in Asia in an Era of Great Power Competition. I was joined by Van Jackson (University of Wellington) and Atsushi Sunami (Sasakawa Peace Foundation) for a conversation moderated by Senator Yuen Pau Woo. Our panel addressed topics such as:

  • What is the current state of trust and engagement in the Indo-Pacific? What are the main drivers contributing to mistrust?
  • How do we understand state behavior in Asia? What are the main institutions, blocs, and partnerships in the region? How do we ensure trust-building among these actors?
  • What is the region’s future direction with respect to state-level engagement and trust? How much should we conceptualize regional leadership and governance when determining future scenarios?
  • What role can outsider powers/actors play in the region? International organizations? NGOs?
  • What are the unique strategic features at the sub-national level? Northeast Asia? Southeast Asia? China? Oceania?

The Victoria Forum is co-hosted by The University of Victoria and the Senate of Canada. Its objective is to bring people together to bridge divides in society through constructive and evidence-based conversations.

Watch the video on YouTube

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New Publication: Building a Quad-South Korea Partnership for Climate Action

I’m happy to announce that my new edited volume Building a Quad-South Korea Partnership for Climate Action has been published. The seven contributions to this volume explore the gains that could be achieved from integrating South Korea into Quad climate initiatives, and in doing so they offer lessons for how minilateral initiatives can be expanded into broader coalitions of partners. In my introduction to the volume, I discuss its four overarching findings:

Minilateral cooperation has the potential to serve as a building block for broader regional and global initiatives. Although climate change cannot be solved by the efforts of five countries acting in isolation, minilateral efforts can be helpful in aligning national interests and policies in preparation for pursuing expanded initiatives with additional countries. The clearest example of this is the potential for the Quad countries and South Korea to form a “climate cooperation club” by creating a voluntary carbon market mechanism under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. In this way, these five countries could enable each other to meet or even exceed their national goals for carbon reduction in a manner that fully supports their international commitments.6  Once positions are aligned among a small group of countries, this creates opportunities to coordinate their positions within other regional or international organizations to amplify and support parallel efforts to address climate change.

Sharing knowledge and best practices can promote policy effectiveness, innovation, and harmonization. There are no easy answers to the problems posed by climate change. On a fundamental level, regional and global climate information sharing about disasters and hazards needs to be improved to enable effective climate-change mitigation and adaptation. In terms of domestic policy, the governments, companies, and citizenry of these five countries have sought ways to pursue decarbonization and to integrate climate action into their broader economic and social activities. For example, the Quad countries may be able to learn from South Korea’s experience with its Green New Deal and its domestic implementation of green growth principles.7  The industries of these countries could benefit from knowledge transfer in relevant industries such as electric vehicles and renewables.8  Their local governments could also usefully consult with one another on bottom-up policies to promote decarbonization.9  By sharing knowledge, practices, and lessons learned, successful models can be emulated elsewhere and common pitfalls can be avoided.

Climate change is closely interconnected with other economic and security issues, so climate must be considered at a broad strategic level in order to effectively address problems. Climate change cannot be solved in isolation from other issues. It is already causing major cascading consequences around the globe.10  The contributions to this volume demonstrate the broad relevance and impact of climate change for a wide range of policies related to sustainable economic development, low-carbon marine and road transportation, green hydrogen and ammonia, forestry and land use, infrastructure, investment, finance, energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy, climate information, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, food security, population displacement, and regional and global institutions. Addressing climate change effectively will require a holistic strategic view of climate as it relates to other substantive issues and a whole-of-society approach to finding solutions. Governments such as the Biden administration in the United States have already begun to embed climate change in their broader regional strategies in reflection of this realization.11

It is not necessary for South Korea or other potential partners to join the Quad to achieve gains from cooperation. None of the initiatives or proposals discussed in this volume require South Korea to join the Quad; nor would other potential partner countries need to do so in order to engage in joint climate action. Instead, flexible consultation, coordination, and cooperation between these countries can be used to achieve meaningful progress in addressing issues related to climate change. Moreover, non-member countries around the world will benefit from the gains realized from climate cooperation within groupings such as the Quad since their initiatives will generate non-excludable positive externalities such as reduced carbon generation.

At a time when the international system is shifting away from global multilateral institutions and entering an era of minilateralism, countries are placing their hopes in groupings like the Quad to play a role in addressing pressing problems such as climate change. The true test of these small-scale initiatives, however, will be their ability to build coalitions with external partners to achieve their ambitious goals. This volume offers some insights into the complexity of this process, as well as concrete recommendations for moving forward.

Download the edited volume

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New Publication: Japan’s Defense Policy Faces a Critical Juncture

2022 was expected to be a defining year for Japanese security policy even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Public debates and internal negotiations have been ongoing for months over the country’s forthcoming National Security Strategy, National Defence Program Guidelines and Medium-Term Defence Force Program. But the Ukraine war could set the scene for a ‘critical juncture’ in Japanese defence policy making, providing the government an opportunity to enact major changes that may not have been possible before.

I have a new article out in East Asia Forum discussing how the war in Ukraine has given new resonance to calls for an increase in Japanese defense spending.

Read the article

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New Publication: Economic Rivals, Security Allies: The US-Japan Trade War

I’m pleased to share that my chapter “Economic Rivals, Security Allies: The US-Japan Trade War” has been published as part of the new Research Handbook on Trade Wars edited by Ka Zeng and Wei Laing. This edited volume provides an informative and in-depth account of the origins, dynamics, and implications of trade wars. My chapter traces the evolution of the US-Japan trade war from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s as it expanded beyond imports and exports to include broader macroeconomic, structural, and technological issues. Based on this analysis, it argues that the likelihood of trade conflict escalation increased as the perceived gap in relative economic power between Japan and the US decreased, as shared security interests and support for free trade norms weakened, and when relevant dispute resolution mechanisms were narrow in scope. Conversely, when these factors shifted in the opposing directions, the likelihood of trade conflict escalation decreased. This chapter devotes particular attention to the role of trade-security linkages in the trade war. Shared security interests were strengthened by positive substantive linkages between trade and Cold War aims; however, interests diverged when negative substantive linkages emerged between Japanese products and US defense capabilities and when tactical linkages were used to force concessions.

Download the preprint on SSRN

Purchase the book

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