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Political Tsunamis and Financial Meltdowns: Malaysia and the World

Monday, 30 November 2009

Co-sponsor: WEAI as part of the “Global Financial Crisis” series

Thomas Pepinsky, Assistant Professor of Government and Faculty Member of the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University, talked about the political economy of crises and transitions, using Malaysia as his case study. The 'standard story' about the relationship between economic crises and political crises is that usually one precedes the other. An economic crisis may lead to a political crisis. Likewise, many economic crises are...


Policy Responses to Bubbles in Japan and the U.S.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Co-sponsors: Center on Japanese Economy and Business (CJEB), WEAI, as part of the “Global Financial Crisis” series

David Weinstein, Carl S. Shoup Professor of the Japanese Economy, Columbia University and Associate Director of Research at the Center on Japanese Economy and Business (CJEB), discussed central banks’ monetary policy responses to recent bubbles in the U.S. and Japan. Specifically, he examined lessons from the 1989 Japan bubble and their application to the current financial crisis.

Comparing the activity on the Nikkei...

Global Crisis and Exchange Rates in East Asia

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Co-sponsors: CJEB, WEAI as part of the “Global Financial Crisis” series

Takatoshi Ito, Professor at the Graduate School of Economics at The University of Tokyo and former Deputy Vice Minister for International Affairs at the Ministry of Finance, Japan, spoke about the effect of the recent global financial crisis on East Asian currencies at SIPA. Professor Ito first pointed out that during the height of the financial crisis, no Asian countries went to the IMF for assistance, nor suffered serious...

Korea's Exit Strategy

Monday, 12 October 2009

Co-sponsor: WEAI, as part of the “Global Financial Crisis” series

Doowon Lee, Professor, School of Economics, Yonsei University and WEAI Visiting Scholar gave a presentation about Korea’s response to the financial crisis of late 2008. Korea had a capital account deficit of $50.9 billion and current account deficit of $6.4 billion, it had to pay back $10 billion to U.S. banks, and its stock market lost about a third of its value between September and November 2008. However, it fared better than...

Resurgent China: Issues for the Future

Monday, 21 September 2009

Co-sponsor: Greater China Initiative, School of International and Public Affairs

Mr. Nazrul Islam, Senior Economic Affairs Officer at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, reviewed the topics in a recently published book he edited, “Resurgent China: Issues for the Future”. After three decades of fast economic growth, China is now the world’s largest exporter and second largest economy (in PPP terms), and is expected to become the largest economy in the world. Mr. Islam explored the...

Indonesia 2015: Demography, Geography and Spending for the Next Decade

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Co-sponsor: SEASI

Wolfgang Fengler, Senior Economist, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management from The World Bank in Jakarta gave a presentation regarding government spending priorities in Indonesia. The talk was moderated by Professor Michael Buehler of WEAI.

Dr. Fengler said that recent public expenditure trends have been alarming because subsidies to targeted industries like electricity and fuel have been crowding out social service spending. However, Fengler was mostly positive, pointing...

Islam, Elections, and Politics in Indonesia

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Co-sponsor: SEASI

Robin Bush, Director of The Asia Foundation, Jakarta, discussed recent election results in Indonesia, and broader trends within Islam in Indonesia. The talk was moderated by Professor Michael Buehler of WEAI.

During the recent April 10 elections, the four Islamic parties tallied only 5 - 8% each, totaling about 26%. This vote signified confidence in the ruling Democratic party, and a drastic reduction in support for the Islamic parties.

Dr. Bush believed the Islamic parties’...

Their Moment in the Sun: Indonesia’s New Gangster Politicians

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Co-sponsor: SEASI

Mr. Loren Ryter, Visiting Scholar and Lecturer at the University of Michigan, gave a presentation on the presence of former gang members, or “premans”, in the Indonesian parliament. The talk was moderated by Professor Michael Buehler of WEAI.

During the Suharto era, there were many youth organizations (Organisasi Kelompok Pemuda, or OKP in Indonesian) that supported the ruling party, Golkar. After Suharto resigned, the former leaders of OKPs were in a good position to campaign...

Language Shift and Language Death in Island Southeast Asia

Monday, 20 April 2009

Co-sponsor: SEASI

James T. Collins, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University, presented his research at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs regarding the change of language patterns in Indonesia. The talk was moderated by Professor Michael Buehler of WEAI.

After studying Indonesian language use for 30 years, Professor Collins has determined that there are 600-800 languages spoken in the country. A reason for the existence of...

Timor-Leste Since the 1999 Referendum

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Co-sponsor: SEASI

John M. Miller, National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, gave a presentation at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs regarding the development of East Timor as an independent state. The talk was moderated by Professor Michael Buehler of WEAI.

Mr. Miller spoke about East Timor’s long road towards independence, first from Portugal in 1975 and then finally from Indonesia in 2001. Miller also highlighted several events that...

ASEAN and the USA: Moving Forward Amidst Crises

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Co-sponsor: SEASI

Simon Tay, Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore and Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, presented his views on the future of ASEAN and the possibility of re-establishing cooperation with the U.S. Tay said that, under the Bush administration, the U.S. had neglected ASEAN relations. With the advent of the Obama administration, Tay wondered if ASEAN would get more attention. If so, which issues will take priority? According to...

Language Regimes and State-Building in Southeast Asia

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Emory University political science Ph.D. candidate Amy Liu presented her dissertation project examining language regime choice in Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan. She argued that governments choose to share linguistic powers when the threat of state destabilization is high. The talk was moderated by Professor Michael Buehler of WEAI.

Liu characterized language regimes as institutions that affect individual behavior. Due to this institutional nature of language regimes, politicization of the...

Gendered Punishment and Punitive Memory in Democratic Kampuchea

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Co-sponsor: SEASI

Trudy Jacobsen, ARC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Monash Asia Institute and the School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University, described gender roles in Cambodia during the time of the Khmer Rouge and beyond. The panel was moderated by Professor Michael Buehler of WEAI.

When the Khmer Rouge came to power, they endorsed gender equality. However, since they didn’t make an effort to change the traditionally patriarchal attitudes in general, they made very little progress...

The Real Story Behind the International Human Rights Campaign for Burma: A Conversation with Burma Advocates from Asia and Europe

Tuesday,  24 March 2009

Co-sponsor: Southeast Asia Student Initiative (SEASI)

The following human rights advocates presented: Khin Ohmar of the Burma Partnership, Roshan Jason from the ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Caucus, Lwe Aye Nang and Thin Thin Aung of the Women’s League of Burma, Debbie Stothard from the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma and Mark Farmener of Burma Rights Campaign UK.  The discussion was moderated by Michael Buehler, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Southeast Asian Studies at WEAI.

Khin Ohmar reviewed the rights-based activities undertaken by local women activists, many of whom are now in jail.  Roshan Jason admitted that ASEAN does not press Burma for change in the human rights sphere, and that it is up to foreign governments to pressure ASEAN to develop stronger incentives to protect human rights among its member countries.  Lwe Aye Nang spoke of her organization’s role in advocacy with the United Nations, and its covert grassroots community mobilization efforts.  Thin Thin Aung traced the history of the military regime and the negative effect that the junta has had on the country’s development.  Debbie Stothard explained how the political system is skewed in favor of the military.  Mark Farmener closed by discussing the government’s persecution of minorities in eastern Burma, and how there is little information disseminated and no sense of urgency from the international community.

Democracy without Accountability: Party Cartels & Presidential Power in Indonesia

Tuesday,  24 March 2009

Dan Slater, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, presented his research on the development of political parties and resulting cartel system in Indonesia.  The panel was moderated by Professor Michael Buehler of WEAI.

Professor Slater argued that political elites in Indonesia share power instead of competing for it.  He discussed some theories that characterize political systems, such as robust competition, where a plausible opposition party exists to monitor the government in power, and vertical and horizontal accountability, where officials are checked by the ballot box and by independent institutions.

Professor Slater gave several examples demonstrating the cartel in practice.  One was the cohesion of an ideologically divided parliament that orchestrated the overthrow of Suharto and his former vice president and successor Rudi Habibie.  This was further demonstrated by the expulsion of Abdurrahman Wahid from the presidency and the placement of Megawati as vice president.

Professor Slater then probed into some possible reasons for the emergence of a political cartel in Indonesia, concluding that the allure of serving in the government, especially in a cabinet position, kept all parties except for one in a coalition.  Slater believes that populism and oligarchy tend to cycle back and forth, one backlash leading to the ascension of the contrasting system.  Thus, “new democracies are not so much consolidating or collapsing as careening.”

Environmental Activism in China

Wednesday,  18 March 2009

Co-sponsor: Asia Pacific Affairs Council, WEAI

Wu Fengshi, Assistant Professor of Government at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, gave a presentation describing environmental activism in China.

Environmental activism first began in the 1990s, and is currently much more widely accepted by both the government and broader society than other issue groups, such as HIV/AIDS, religious or democracy movements.  This is partly due to the leeway, and sometimes support, that the Chinese government gives to environmental NGOs and public officials that deal with environmental issues.  This is in spite of the fact the environmental activism has its roots based in the democratic movements that shocked the country in the 1980s.

China boasts some of the world’s most reputable environmental scientists, which give the Chinese more credibility in dealing with this issue.  Environmental activism could become more successful, Wu argues, if the movement could become more cohesive, both domestically and more in line with the broader international environmental movement.

The event was hosted by WEAI and moderated by Elizabeth Wishnick, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Law at Montclair State University, and Research Associate at WEAI.

Book Talk and Reception: Legacy of Engagement in Southeast Asia

Thursday,  29 January 2009

Co-sponsor: WEAI

Authors and editors of this new book presented their chapters and insights on the development of Southeast Asia, including Frederick Brown, Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University; Hugh Patrick, Robert D. Calkins Professor Emeritus of International Business, Columbia University; Donald Weatherbee, Donald S. Russell Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina and Bridget Welsh, Associate Professor in the Southeast Asia Studies Program, Johns Hopkins University. 

Professor Brown spoke on Vietnam, where an entrenched Communist Party is struggling to redefine itself in an increasingly sophisticated society facing new challenges.  Professor Patrick explained how Japanese development assistance over the past four decades has been successful in stimulating growth and repairing damage to past historical blights.  Professor Weatherbee was critical of ASEAN, where nationalistic tendencies are threatening regional integration.  Professor Welsh outlined the challenges facing the region, such as corruption, the retrenchment of democracy and a growing income inequality.

The panel was moderated by Ann Marie Murphy, an Assistant Professor at the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy at Seton Hall University, and an editor of the book.  Professor Murphy opened with complimentary remarks about Jack Bresnan, a former Columbia University professor and mentor to many of the panelists.