The Changing Dynamics of Southeast Asian Politics

By Sinpeng, Aim | Journal of East Asian Studies, September-December 2011 | Go to article overview

The Changing Dynamics of Southeast Asian Politics


Sinpeng, Aim, Journal of East Asian Studies


The Changing Dynamics of Southeast Asian Politics. By Jorn Dosch. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2006. 271 pp. $55.00 (cloth).

Jorn Dosch's Changing Dynamics of Southeast Asian Politics draws together the dynamics of globalization, regional and domestic politics, and changed political environment in the post-Cold War era in the context of Southeast Asia. Dosch argues that global, regional, and national politics have become intertwined in a manner that can be described as a "stretching, deepening and broadening of political activity" (p. 3). Such analysis goes beyond a mere two-level game to depict dynamic change in the societies of Southeast Asia from more centralistic to more pluralistic. The relationship between the international and domestic realms of politics is neither one-dimensional nor monocausal, but rather mutually reinforcing and reciprocal (p. 11). To attempt to analyze both the three arenas of political activity as well as the complex interdependence of both state and nonstate actors at all levels is no small feat, particularly in a region as politically, historically, and socially diverse as Southeast Asia. At minimum, this book proposes a shift in thinking toward regionalism from a statist to a more dynamic model, and it succeeds in doing so by using poignant examples from across the region. A caveat to this research is whether only "positive cases" are chosen to illustrate and confirm the author's main thesis.

The book is divided into five chapters, each focusing on the various aspects of the changing dynamics of politics in Southeast Asia. In Chapter 2, the author argues that the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines has led both to an increase in the number of political actors involved in foreign policy making and to an expansion of actor participation in the process. Foreign policy in these countries used to be dominated by the executive branch of the government (civilian or military), whose narrowed interests influenced the process of policymaking. The process of democratization that began in the 1980s and 1990s opened up the political space for other actors, such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), businesses, and political groups, to have a say in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy.

Chapter 3 draws on key similarities in the causes and policy responses of separatist movements and insurgencies in Mindanao, Aceh, and southern Thailand. The author purports that the origins of these conflicts are rooted in local or national factors, not global ones. Yet, the post-Cold War era is marked by an increasing concern about nontraditional security issues, such as terrorism, climate change, and migration, and less so about interstate military conflicts. Localized violence such as found in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia must therefore be viewed in relation to regional and global security matters. Chapter 4 uses the case of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) to further illustrate the growing linkages between domestic and international policy areas. The author argues that the six-member subregional grouping--China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Burma--have been successful in reducing tension and conflict among themselves through cooperation in economic development and natural resource management. However, the GMS is far from becoming a pluralistic security community.

Chapter 5 outlines the way in which external players, most notably Western states, have fostered the process of democratization and decentralization in Cambodia. …

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