Asia In The International System

Asia’s economic and military rise indicates that the continent is positioned to play a more significant role in constructing global and regional order. Asian countries have already begun to demonstrate this desire. Whether or not Asia demands changes to the current orders or assumes a greater role in it due to the retreat of the Western powers, China, India, Russia, and other Asian nations aspire to play a greater role.

Over time, CAG has examined issues pertaining to the relationship between China, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States and the impact on East Asia. The Centre will continue to deal with the geopolitical and security relations between the major powers with a particular focus on China-US, China-Japan, and China-India relations and how these are shaping the international system and East Asia.

CAG aims to understand the changes underway in Southeast Asia and to comprehend the relationship between those changes and emerging conceptions of regional order. The reset of US foreign policy, the rise of China under Xi Jinping, the growing activism of Japan, the Act East Policy of India, and the challenges to ASEAN centrality as well as global and regional economic changes point to a potential transformation of Singapore's region.  

At a time of global political, economic, and social change, key actors are questioning prevailing international rules, institutions, and practices. This churning is occurring amongst the major Western powers and Asian countries. The focus of CAG's concerns is: How do Asians think about global order? CAG seeks to address this question through an analysis of strategic thought and foreign policy in the key ASEAN states, China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

Territorial disputes over the South China Sea have existed since the end of the World War II. In recent years, however, China’s rapid rise, coupled with its increasing assertiveness over the South China Sea and the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, have provoked lingering tensions between China and the other claimants. These have the propensity to substantially impact regional peace and stability. Current political dialogue over the South China Sea has been polarised by the rhetoric of both China and the U.S. and strong nationalistic sentiment in each country involved in the spat. Constructive, cross-disciplinary and cross-border dialogue on the issue was considered essential to prevent current minor spats from escalating into regional, or even global, conflict. The Centre of Asia and Globalisation is constantly engaged with issues relating to the South China Sea through Workshops and Publications.


Centre on Asia and Globalisation (CAG) – Australia China Research Institute (ACRI) South China Sea Conference: February 10-11, 2017 – Sydney, Australia

The Centre on Asia and Globalisation (CAG) in collaboration with the Australia China Research Institute (ACRI) co-hosted a conference on the South China Sea on February 10-11, 2017 at the University of Technology Sydney in Sydney, Australia. The South China Sea dispute not only involves ASEAN, regional states, and China but also the worlds major powers, including Japan, India, Russia, and the United States. The conference’s focus was on why and how these major powers – all considered ‘user states’ – are engaged in the discord, what the stakes are, and how their involvement is effecting the stability and strategic balance in the Asia Pacific. The conference analysed the approaches, roles, policies, and impact of the user states (China, Japan, India, Australia, and the United States) in the on-going dispute. The conference coalesced 20 experts from ASEAN, Australia, China, Japan, India, Russia, and the United States to discuss a range of issues and perspectives relating to the user states and the discord.

Please find the conference report here.

South China Sea Conference, Nanjing, April 2015

With the objective of securing peace and improving stability in the South China Sea, this conference marks the beginning of a long-term cooperation between the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Nanjing University to provide sustained joint research on South China Sea issues. The topics for discussion include historical origins of the South China Sea disputes; country perspectives of South China Sea claimants; impact of the South China Sea issue on regional peace and security; impact of the South China Sea issue on regional economic development and integration; role of international regimes and governance; and ASEAN and the Management of the South China Sea issue. An edited volume will be published from the proceedings of the conference.

Click here for conference summary.


The South China Sea: Central to Peace and Security, New York, March 2013

The Centre on Asia and Globalisation collaborated with the Asia Society (a nonpartisan, non-profit institution dedicated to strengthening partnerships between Asia and the United States) to host a conference on South China Sea disputes at the latter’s headquarters in New York from the 13th-15th of March 2013. The aim of the conference –which was held immediately after China’s leadership transition and the U.S. Presidential election–, was to provide a forum for participants from the U.S., China and various Asian countries to candidly exchange their views over the current tensions in the region in an academic manner.

The conference included key policy makers and academics from the United States, China and ASEAN countries that were directly impacted by the dispute, such as Ambassador Stapleton Roy, Director of Kissinger Institute on China and the United States; Mr. Henry Bensurto, former Secretary General of the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs Secretariat (CMOAS); Ambassador Christopher Hill, Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies; University of Denver, Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Ha, Director General of Department of International Law and Treaties; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam; Major General Zhu Chenghu, Dean of the Defense Affairs Institute, China’s National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army Dr. Robert Beckman, Director of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Professor Huang Jing, Director of CAG. Participants engaged in a deep causal analysis of the dispute by presenting historical, legal, geo-political and strategic perspectives on the topic. The key closing remark of the conference was the need for joint cooperation; however a long-term solution any time soon seemed unlikely. Selected papers will be published in the form of an edited volume, scheduled to be published in 2014.

For more details on the conference, click here.


In the past 40 years, Japan and China have been playing important roles in the stable and vibrant development of East and Southeast Asia. Today, with the readjustment of advanced economies around the globe, particularly, in North America and Europe, intra-regional economic interdependence and integration becomes a strategic basis for maintaining growth. This is a strategy that is important for an area that accounts for much of the world’s population and emerging markets. It is no doubt that Japan and China, two of Asia’s largest economies, will play key roles in strengthening and broadening the region’s interdependence, as Asia rises as a whole.

While both countries will undoubtedly continue to play a positive role in the region, recent relations have been anything but calm. Even more alarming, are emerging signs that may indicate a trend towards ‘cold economic relations’. Given the surge in China’s economic, military, and political power and Japan’s push to revive its national economy and achieve greater presence in world politics, it becomes crucial to enlarge a common base of strategic trust between the government and people of the two neighbouring countries. The task of trust building holds significance not only for Japan and China but also among the countries in the region and the world.

With this in mind, the Centre on Asia and Globalisation in Singapore and the Fujitsu Research Institutein Japan co-hosted successful Forums in 2013 and 2014 with young leaders (under 42 years old age) selected from major think tanks, academic institutions, NGOs, public press, and private sectors in both countries. The inaugural forum in Singapore produced a rare joint-statement voicing the consensual opinion of future generation leaders on contentious issues such as territorial dispute and historical memory. The forum took a practical prognostic approach to trust-building. It was aimed at promoting cooperation and policy solutions to address tough questions in bilateral relations by promoting understanding on the underlying motivations of policy makers and societal actors in their contexts, hence generating confidence among the participants that cooperation is possible between the two countries. It further provides as a platform for generating new and realistic ideas of cooperation in the area of security, trade, media, business, non-profit and public goods sectors of both countries.

Principal Investigators

  • Jing Huang
  • Tomoo Kikuchi
  • Chen Huaiyuan
  • Takehiro Masutomo

‘Russia has long been an intrinsic part of the Asian-Pacific region. We view this dynamic region as the most important factor for the successful future of the whole country, as well as development of Siberia and the Far East’.

President Vladimir Putin, Wall Street Journal, 6th September, 2012

A few days before Russia hosted the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Russian city of Vladivostok, President Putin communicated a shift in the country’s strategic orientation to the Asia-Pacific through an article in the Wall Street Journal. Moscow’s eastward turn is not only motivated by the growth of economic, strategic and political dynamism of Asia-Pacific, but also the impact of the global financial crisis on the United States and Europe that have withdrawn Russia’s historic attraction from the West. Further, Russian elites realised the over-dependence of the Russian economy on energy and that the development of the Far East would give impetus to its “new economy”.

Indeed, with its rich natural resources and geopolitical importance, Russia’s Far East is the last frontier in the region. That said there are several requirements for the development of this region such as capital, labour, market-access and technical know-how. While it seems like China could be the primary provider of these requirements, some argue that this might perpetuate an overreliance on it. Cooperation and collaboration at bilateral and multilateral levels with other Asian neighbours can serve a variety of mutual interests. With this in mind, the Centre on Asia and Globalisation partnered with Valdai Club (Russia) to address the various dimensions related to Russia’s eastern development including economics, trade, geopolitics, maritime security, energy security and the environment. With generous funding from Norway and Singapore, the project is a consortium of the six collaborating institutions, including the Japan Institute of International Affairs, the School of Advanced International and Area Studies in East China Normal University, the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and the National Research University – Higher School of Economics in Russia.

Inaugural Conference, December 16-18, Singapore

The CAG-Valdai partnership was inaugurated with a two-day conference titled ‘Developing Asia Pacific’s Last Frontier: Fostering International Cooperation in the Development of Russia’s Siberia and Far East’. It was held from the 16-18 December, 2013 at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

The inaugural conference began on a successful note, attracting close to over 50 participants from around the world.

Policy Dialogue, July 7-9, 2014, Moscow

Second Academic Conference, May 14-15, Vladivostok

Russia’s turn to Asia is already in process. Crisis in Russia-West relations gives it an additional powerful push. Russian elites have no more objections to the need for Russia’s integration to APR and rapid development of Russia’s Far East and Siberia – this is already obvious. The role of this conference is to propose such mechanisms from the perspective of the participating countries and make them clear to policy-makers in Russia and other states. It attempts to make discussion as focused and concrete as possible and also pay special attention to the issues that already attract attention of policy-makers to make them more receptive to the provided ideas and policy advice.

You can view the conference report here.

Project Publications

Principal Investigators

  • Jing Huang
  • Alexander Korolev
  • Chen Huaiyuan

National values and cultures play an essential role in foreign policy making and implementation. Yet there is little systematic and comparative study on how, and to what extent, a culture and value system can impact on a nation’s view, strategy and approach towards the outside world.

This question becomes more relevant and indeed imperative in view of the irrevocable evolution towards a multipolar world. It is increasingly evident that the established International Relations theories, based on ‘western values’, can hardly capture the reality in international affairs. In practice, the promotion of the ‘Washington consensus’ has met with not only empirical obstacles but also normative rejections. Rising powers with ancient historical civilisations such as China and India will play increasingly important roles in international governance, it becomes relevant to understand the influence of traditional values on foreign policy perspectives and approaches.

As rising powers are also being seen through the reflection of ‘western’ power’s self-image, this project asks, what might be the values coming from the ‘East’ to guide their rise? To address questions on how a national culture and value system impact on the nation’s foreign policy and how the constitutive nature of visions of world order should be defined (and therefore understood), the international workshop on ‘The Impact of National Cultures on Foreign Policy Making in a Multipolar World’ was held on October 4 at the Robert Bosch Stiftung in Berlin. This workshop has piloted a larger-scale, long-term project for a systematic and comparative study on how, in a multipolar world, traditional values and cultures can impact on a nation’s foreign policy as well as its approach towards global issues.


Conference on ‘The Impact of National Cultures on Foreign Policy Making in a Multipolar World’, Berlin, October 2014’

Principal Investigators

  • Jing Huang
  • Chen Huaiyuan

Keeping with its theme of domestic politics, the Centre on Asia and Globalisation (CAG) has also attempted to open up the black box of the Chinese State, by hosting a conference on ‘Sustaining China’s Development: Challenges and Choices’ in July 2013, in Shenzen. China’s rise is the most significant phenomenon of this century. China remains prominent with its impressive double digit growth while the western world is suffering from the financial crisis. However, there are several challenges that Chinese leaders are now confronting. These include the implications of its fast economic growth, increasing diversity of interests in society, growing demand for political participation from the masses, rampant corruption, growing socio-economic disparity and finally, the deteriorating ecological system. The ultimate question arising from these challenges is whether China, under the CCP rule, can sustain its economic development and political stability for the long term. CAG has initiated the project with the purpose of providing feasible solutions for current leaders in China to tackle the existing problems. Professor Huang Jing, the principle investigator will be publishing a book on the above mentioned theme in 2014.

The project has engaged experts from both China and abroad. It consists of a roundtable, a book publication and an edited volume of papers written by scholars with expertise on Chinese domestic politics. The roundtable was organised in Shenzhen, China in July 2013 to provide a platform for scholars to exchange ideas and share their thoughts on how the current leaders should do with the existing challenges.

Conference on Sustaining China’s Development: Challenges and Choices

Shenzen, 18th – 20th July, 2013


Participants of the Conference on ‘Sustaining China’s Development’, Shenzen, July 2013. From Left: Yu Xiaohong (Tsinghua University), Luo Yong (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Zhao Shukai, (China Development Research Foundation), Zhao Suisheng (University of Denver), Huang Jing (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy), Liu Yawei, (Emory University), Zou Pingxue,(Shenzhen University) Xu Zhenqing (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy)