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Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security

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content of some levels. What had been regional becomes subregional,
andwhat had been interregional betweenNortheast and Southeast Asia
becomes an East Asian regional level.
The domestic level
With the ending of the Cold War the domestic level of security became
moreprominent in twoways: instability in somecountries, andbigques-
tions about the direction of evolution in others. Cases of direct instability
were most prominent in Burma, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
Burma remained locked under a repressive military dictatorship in
longstanding tension with more democratic parties, and in civil war
with some minorities. But with Chinese support, the military remained
successful in both suppressing the democratic opposition and defeating
the main ethnic rebel groups along its borders.
The long-running civil war in Cambodia, which had continued after
the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops in 1989, was temporarily capped
by an expensive UN military and political operation (UNTAC 1991–3)
to try to get Cambodian politics back on to a civil basis. Despite some
success in staging a national election in the face of violent opposition
by the Khmer Rouge, this operation largely failed to overcome the mil-
itarisation of Cambodian politics, and violence resumed in 1994. But,
by the later 1990s, domestic political violence was no longer on a large
scale, and during the 1990s Cambodia ceased to be a hotly contested
issue among either regional or global powers, and therefore ceased to
have the wider impact it had had during the Cold War.
After the East Asian economic crisis in 1997, the succession crisis fac-
ing Indonesia became critical, and at the time of writing it was far from
clear whether the muddled shift to electoral politics would be able to
handle the turbulentmix of economic disaster, secessionism (East Timor,
Aceh, Irian Jaya), and recurrent bouts of communal violence in various
places. Indonesia had all the appearance of a crumbling empire, and
its internal disarray andweak leadership contributed to the paralysis of
ASEAN,whichwas alreadyburdenedbyboth overambitious expansion
and the impact of the regional economic crisis.
The question of domestic evolution affected many states in the re-
gion. For most, the force driving the uncertainty was the acute tension
between the authoritarian, mercantilist inclinations of the region’s post-
colonial states, and the more liberal economic and political pressures
coming from the global level. Some countries, such as South Korea,
1990s and beyond: emergent East Asian complex
Taiwan, and Singapore, handled it fairly well. But others, notably the
Philippines,Malaysia, andThailand, all had ongoing difficulties finding
a workable mix of legitimate government and stable economic devel-
opment. After 11 September, there was also heightened concern about
radical Islamism in Indonesia, the Philippines, andMalaysia. The really
big questions, however, focused on three countries: NorthKorea, China,
and Japan. North Korea was crucial because of its position at the heart
of one of East Asia’s flashpoints; China and Japan were crucial because
how they evolved domestically would determine how they behaved as
great powers.
North Koreawas one of several authoritarian states experiencing pro-
longed succession crises during the 1990s, but in this case accompanied
by severe economic collapse and famine. Despite regular expectations
of its imminent demise, the North Korean regime seemed to manage
a smooth transfer of power to Kim Jong-il after Kim Il-sung’s death
in 1994, reinforcing its bizarre system of dynastic communism. It also
retained a tight grip on the country despite the disastrous state of the
economy. At first, the question was whether the North’s regime would
collapse or not.When it survived, the question becamewhether or not it
wouldmake some sort of peacewith the South. Either way, the prospect
of a reunified Korea raised awkward questions not only for Japan and
China, but also for the USA.
Japan did not face the same liberal–authoritarian dilemmas as most
of its neighbours. For Japan, the main question was whether it would
retain the curiously introverted and dependent military-political pos-
ture that it had adopted after its crushing defeat in the Second World
War, or whether, as some hoped and some feared, it would become in
realist terms a more ‘normal’ country. To do that it would have, inter
alia, to replace the weak foreign and security policy-making machin-
ery that had sufficed throughout the ColdWar (vanWolferen 1989). The
deeper questionwaswhether Japanwas pioneering a new type of state –
‘civilian power’ (Maull 1990–1) or ‘trading state’ (Rosecrance 1986) –
in which case its transformation would be permanent, or whether it
was simply suffering a long hangover from defeat, and would at some
point follow realist logic by resuming the normal great power role it
had played up to 1945. The ending of the Cold War undermined the
existing rationale for the US–Japanese Security Treaty, and seemed to
offer an opportunity inwhich this questionmight get a decisive answer.
Would Japan once again undergo a major, externally driven, internal
transformation like those of the Meiji restoration and the late 1940s? Or
The domestic level
would its conservative domestic structures (Katzenstein and Okawara
1993) and/ordeeply institutionalisednormsand conceptions of security
(Berger 1993) mean just more of the same?
But no such answer was forthcoming. No major political reform took
place, and the economy remainedmired in recession. Opinion remained
divided about whether Japan was about to bounce back, or whether it
still faced a long haul of reform. Inertia on the domestic level meant
a de facto continuation of Japan’s subordinate role to the United States
in East Asia. The only notable change was the passing in 1992 of a
law enabling the Self Defence Forces to participate in UN PKOs, al-
beit in limited numbers and only in non-combatant roles. This paved
the way for a leading Japanese role in the UN’s rescue operation for
Cambodia, and for some slightly more adventurous military commit-
ments in the war against the Taleban. Although not without symbolic
significance, these hardly amounted to restoring Japan as a ‘normal’
China was by far the biggest and most important case of the
liberal–authoritarian dilemma. How was it to sustain its engagement
with the global economy without destabilising its already shaky politi-
cal structures? China was experiencing sustained and unprecedentedly
rapid economic growth, and, although this generated new resources,
it also unleashed its own domestic instabilities. Could such growth be
sustained, and if so how would China use the newfound wealth and
power under its command? Could China reconcile the mounting con-
tradiction between its authoritarian government and its rapidly mar-
ketising economy? It was ironic that a profoundly anti-liberal state such
as China, which embraced traditional realist Machtpolitik in much of
its international thought and behaviour (Hughes 1997: 116–19; Li 1999:
6, 18), should so firmly embrace the quintessentially liberal doctrine of
separating economics frompolitics. ‘Market communism’ looked like an
oxymoron whose historical run would be short. In addition, there was
some open, and growing, resistance to Beijing’s control in Tibet, Xin-
jiang, and Inner Mongolia, the latter two taking inspiration, and some-
times support, from the newly independent successor states in Central
Asia and Mongolia respectively.
For China’s neighbours, the question resulting from all this was
whether China would grow strong (and aggressive) or become more
internally fragmented by uneven development, penetration of foreign
capital and ideas, and a weakening political centre. The combined
impact of marketisation (which stimulated mass internal migration,