US-Sino Relations: Complex and Uncertain – Kausikan

Mr Bilahari Kausikan spoke at length about how US-China relations today affect the current global and regional political order on 20 March 2019 at his fourth FASS90 Political Science Lecture on the Practice of Foreign Affairs.

He was keen to emphasise that despite some similarities, Sino-American relations today are fundamentally different from those between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. “The post-Cold War (world) is complex, not binary,” he stated.

Mr. Kausikan (right) responding to questions with Assoc Prof Bilveer Singh (left) from the Department of Political Science

“US-China Relations are Inextricably Entangled in a Way US-Soviet Relations Never Were”

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cold War-era of international political structure that had persisted for more than four decades abruptly came to an end. “Despite its many dangers, the Cold War international order was clear and simple; essentially binary in structure,” said Mr Kausikan.

“You were either on one side or the other. Even if you tried to be or pretended to be non-aligned, you essentially defined your interests in relation to this binary structure. This entrenched a mode of thought: a binary view of the world that is still a powerful albeit usually unconscious, but certainly inappropriate influence on how we understand the trope of China’s rise.”

The biggest difference in today’s US-China relations compared to US-Soviet relations during the Cold War was how interlinked America was with each at the time. The Soviet Union “largely contained itself by pursuing autarky,” Kausikan said. “The US and the Soviet Union interacted only tangentially; their relationship was structured primarily by the need to avoid mutual destruction.”

This is unlike China today, which is inseparably inter-connected with the American economy and that of the world. “Unlike the Soviet Union, China is an irreplaceable node in the global economy, as vital as the American economy,” he stated. “US-China relations are simultaneously inter-dependent in a way that is historically unique between major powers, and simultaneously infused with a deep strategic distrust.” Yet despite this distrust, Kausikan was adamant that Sino-American rivalry was not a zero-sum game as some claim. “China’s rise is not necessarily America’s decline, except in relative terms,” he said, dismissing it as another relic of an outdated Cold War-era mentality.

Bilahari Kausikan discussing US-Sino relations.

America: “Spreading the Burden of Leadership”

Mr Kausikan also noted that despite their vast differences, “both Obama and Trump are iterations of the post-Cold War metamorphosis of American values.” Both have attempted to spread the burden of leadership, particularly defence costs, onto America’s allies; Obama merely did so in a more tactful manner than his successor.

In fact, Kausikan was of the opinion President Trump and his tough stance toward China was not a passing phase but a permanent shift in American policy. “Trump is not an aberration that will pass with the next administration,” he stated. “Key elements of his foreign policy, in particular the tougher approach to China as a strategic competitor enjoy strong bipartisan support across many policy domains.”

“Trump’s successor may speak more prudently and act more predictably, but the probability is that whoever succeeds Trump will represent the same political phenomenon and pursue much the same policies, at least towards China.”

China: Globalisation’s Biggest Winner, Protectionism’s Biggest Loser

This new hostile American stance to both China and globalisation will have serious implications for China, particularly for its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. “China was the main beneficiary of the American-led post-Cold War globalisation. China may well be the main loser if that order should further fray because the US now embraces a narrower concept of leadership,” Mr Kausikan noted.

“Can the Belt and Road Initiative succeed if the world turns protectionist as a result of the trade war? I don’t think so. More to the point, I don’t think the Chinese think so either.”

And despite its undeniable position as an economic superpower, Kausikan was not optimistic that China could be a substitute for American leadership in the global economy. “An open global order cannot be led on the basis of a still-largely closed and mercantilist Chinese model,” he remarked, especially when “Chinese growth rests on that open international order.” As such, he feels that some sort of temporary truce will be called on the ongoing trade war, although it would likely be “a very bad deal, and both sides will have the incentive to get out of it as soon as possible.”

Engagement Still the Main Tone of US-China Relationships

Nevertheless, Mr Kausikan emphasised that despite the rancour of the trade war, the central theme of US-China bilateral ties was that of engagement and communication. “War is highly improbable, nuclear deterrence impels caution, engagement will not cease and the US and China will still cooperate when their interests coincide,” he stated. Given how closely the two countries are tied to each other and the rest of the world economically, a continued policy of engagement would bode well for all sides.

Watch the lecture here.

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About the Speaker
Bilahari Kausikan is Chairman of the Middle East Institute, NUS. From 2001 to 2013, he was first the second Permanent Secretary and then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). He was subsequently Ambassador-at-Large until May 2018, having previously served in various MFA appointments, including as the Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and as Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs
This five part lecture series is organised by the NUS Political Science Society with support from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the Department of Political Science. Established in 1929, FASS, one of the earliest and largest faculties is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Whilst witnessing numerous changes, we remain steadfast to our vision to strive forward as a premier faculty of excellence in humanities and social sciences that nurtures tomorrow’s engaged, thoughtful and creative global citizens. To mark this occasion, the Faculty is organising a series of events showcasing the strength and breadth of the Faculty’s research as well as kick start future initiatives that would benefit the generations of students who will come through our halls.

Bilahari Kausikan discusses the Art of ASEAN diplomacy

Bilahari Kausikan (Arts & Social Sciences ’76) discussed the Association of South-East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) historical and current role at his third instalment of the Practice of Foreign Policy Lecture Series at NUS on 13 March 2019.

Founding Purpose – What was Left Unsaid
ASEAN, according to Kausikan, was very much a product of the Cold War. Although the Bangkok Declaration, ASEAN’s founding document, emphasised economic cooperation, “for ASEAN’s first quarter-century, almost nothing was done to advance economic cooperation.” ASEAN’s true purpose at the time was to function as a bulwark against growing communist influence in the region, particularly after Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 with Soviet Union’s support.

“There were more immediate political and security concerns, and irrespective of what the Bangkok Declaration said, these political and security concerns were ASEAN’s real concerns. Whatever our other differences, all the five founding members were anti-communist or non-communist,” he said. “The realisation was that if we did not hang together, we would hang separately.”

Despite ASEAN’s newfound unity and common purpose, it was still out of its weight class when it came to the Cambodian conflict. The Vietnam-Cambodia war was a “Sino-Soviet proxy war, and it was never in ASEAN’s power to resolve. This was a big boys’ game,” stated Kausikan. “ASEAN’s role was to rally international support to prevent a Soviet-backed Vietnamese fait accompli. And this was a limited, but not inconsequential role which we performed very successfully.”

Bilahari Kausikan (right) responding to questions with Asst Prof Deepak Nair (left) from the Department of Political Science.

 

Bilahari Kausikan sharing his insights on ASEAN with the audience.

Post-Cold War: Still Limited but Vital
With the end of the Cold War following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, ASEAN found itself in need of a new purpose. What was ASEAN to do now that communism was no longer a threat?

“The answer to that,” Kausikan said, “was to try and do what we had always said was our purpose: economic cooperation.” In 1992, the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) was set up and the first phase of economic integration was “completed as scheduled by the end of 2015.” That economic integration however, did not come easy, particularly because “it was difficult to muster the will to take the political decisions that economic cooperation required without the existential challenges of the Cold War as a spur.”

Consensus and Non-Interference: Stability, Even at the Cost of Efficiency
Much of this was due to ASEAN’s “most fundamental consideration”, which is “to preserve the organisation, even if it means inaction or consensus only of form.” This meant that unless all member states agreed, ASEAN would choose the safe option and take no action. In a region with such vast differences in government styles and culture coupled with wildly diverging national interests, achieving unanimous consensus can be complicated and difficult even in the best of times.

While Kausikan admitted that consensus-based decision making often produced “sub-optimal outcomes,” he was adamant that “despite their obvious limitations, consensus and non-interference cannot be abandoned as ASEAN’s core operating principles.” Maintaining consensus amongst all ASEAN members remains paramount because “all the differences that have made regionalism so necessary and so hard to achieve have not disappeared, and will never disappear. They therefore have to be managed, if the peace is to be kept.” Using any other mode of decision-making “risks even small differences escalating into serious conflicts.”

ASEAN and the South China Sea Disputes
With four ASEAN member states currently locked in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, questions from the audience naturally gravitated the position ASEAN ought to take. When asked, Kausikan dismissed the idea of ASEAN playing a larger role in collectively engaging China on territorial disputes.

“We (ASEAN) discuss the South China Sea collectively with China, but we can only do that on issues that are actually secondary or tangential to the core issue, which are the competing claims,” he stated. “Territorial disputes can by definition only be settled by the parties to the dispute,” which are primarily bilateral.

In fact, Mr Kausikan contends that “it is beyond ASEAN’s capabilities to resolve the disputes in the South China Sea” since it has become “something of a proxy for the contest between the American and Chinese ideas of regionalism.”

“As with the Cambodian issue in the 1980’s, this is a big boys’ game.”

The best thing ASEAN can do now regarding the South China Sea according to him, is to “make our red lines clear to both sides” and once again play a limited, but vital role in keeping the peace in the region.

Most importantly, he added, “there are things that ASEAN can do very well and we do them, there are things we can only do sub-optimally, and there are things that are simply beyond our powers. And the art of ASEAN diplomacy is to know which is which.”

Watch the lecture here.

The third instalment in the series, Bilahari Kausikan addressing a full house on ASEAN.

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About the Speaker
Bilahari Kausikan is Chairman of the Middle East Institute, NUS. From 2001 to 2013, he was first the second Permanent Secretary and then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). He was subsequently Ambassador-at-Large until May 2018, having previously served in various MFA appointments, including as the Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and as Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs
This five part lecture series is organised by the NUS Political Science Society with support from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the Department of Political Science. Established in 1929, FASS, one of the earliest and largest faculties is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Whilst witnessing numerous changes, we remain steadfast to our vision to strive forward as a premier faculty of excellence in humanities and social sciences that nurtures tomorrow’s engaged, thoughtful and creative global citizens. To mark this occasion, the Faculty is organising a series of events showcasing the strength and breadth of the Faculty’s research as well as kick start future initiatives that would benefit the generations of students who will come through our halls.

Bilahari Kausikan shares foreign policy insights in first of public lecture series

On 30 Jan 2019, Bilahari Kausikan (Arts & Social Sciences ’76) spoke on the practice of foreign policy at NUS. He situated the fundamental role of national interests in foreign policy and explained why Singapore’s national interests are not better and more widely understood. He examined common errors in thinking about foreign policy, as well as the creation and maintenance of relevance for a small city-state like Singapore.

The inaugural lecture was presided by NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye, Senior Deputy President and Provost Ho Teck Hua and FASS Dean Professor Robbie Goh.

Watch the lecture here.

 

Mr. Kausikan sharing foreign policy insights with the audience.
Mr. Kausikan responding to questions with Head of Department of Political Science Assoc Prof Soo Yeon Kim.
NUS President Prof Tan Eng Chye presenting a token of appreciation to Mr. Kausikan.

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In conjunction with the Faculty of Arts and Social Science’s 90th anniversary, the Department of Political Science is hosting Kausikan’s lectures on the Practice of Foreign Affairs. Full information, topics and dates available here.

Bilahari Kausikan is Chairman of the Middle East Institute, NUS. From 2001 to 2013, he was first the second Permanent Secretary and then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). He was subsequently Ambassador-at-Large until May 2018, having previously served in various MFA appointments, including as the Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and as Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Established in 1929, the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), one of the earliest and largest faculties is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Whilst witnessing numerous changes, we remain steadfast to our vision to strive forward as a premier faculty of excellence in humanities and social sciences that nurtures tomorrow’s engaged, thoughtful and creative global citizens. To mark this occasion, the Faculty is organising a series of events showcasing the strength and breadth of the Faculty’s research as well as kick start future initiatives that would benefit the generations of students who will come through our halls.

Joint Book Launch – Citizens in Motion: Emigration, Immigration, and Re-migration Across China’s Borders & Marrying for a Future: Transnational Sri Lankan Tamil Marriages in the Shadow of War

A joint book launch celebrating the release of Citizens in Motion: Emigration, Immigration, and Re-migration Across China’s Borders by Associate Professor Elaine Ho (NUS Department of Geography and FASS Research Division) and Marrying for a Future: Transnational Sri Lankan Tamil Marriages in the Shadow of War by Assistant Professor Sidharthan Maunaguru (NUS Department of South Asian Studies and NUS Department of Sociology) will be held at the Pod, NLB on Tuesday, 7th May 2019.
 
In Citizens in Motion, A/P Ho examines the migration patterns and multifaceted national affiliations of both elaine hoChinese migrants overseas and foreign migrants in China. Through interviews and ethnographic observations conducted in China, Canada, Singapore, and the China-Myanmar border, A/P Ho captures the rich diversity of contemporary Chinese migration processes. By bringing together these various experiences and national contexts, A/P Ho offers an insightful analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing nation-building and cultural diversity management mediated by the influences of migration processes.
marrying for a futureAsst Prof Maunaguru focuses on Sri Lanka in Marrying for a Future, where he argues that the social institution of marriage sidharthan maunaguruserves as a critical means of reuniting dispersed segments of Tamil communities who fled Sri Lanka during the almost 26 year civil war. This is because key agents and elements of marriage such as marriage brokers and transit places help foster connections between these fragmented communities. Importantly, the book offers an interesting take on migration issues by situating transnational marriage within the larger scholarship of forced displacement and refugees.
 
Together, A/P Ho and Asst Prof Maunaguru contribute unique approaches to studying migration and opens up possibilities for future scholarship to build on these alternative perspectives. If you are interested to hear more from the authors themselves, please RSVP to reserve your seat. The event details are as follows:
Date: Tuesday, 7th May 2019
 
Time: 6.00–8.30pm
Venue: The Pod, National Library Building
 
Organizers: Singapore Research Nexus and FASS Migration Cluster, FASS Research Division
 
Click here for additional details.
 

FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs: Bilahari Kausikan on Singapore Foreign Policy

Click to enlarge.

In conjunction with FASS’ 90th anniversary, the Department of Political Science is organising a public lecture series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs. The guest lecturer is former Ambassador and currently Chairman of the Middle East Institute, Mr Bilahari Kausikan.

Date: 30 Jan, 20 Feb, 13 Mar, 20 Mar & 3 Apr
Time: 6pm – 8pm
Venue: FASS LT11 (Click for map)

Sign up for the lecture via the following links:
https://tinyurl.com/polsci-sfp-nusmembers (NUS members)
https://tinyurl.com/polsci-sfp-public (Public members)

The synopses for the lectures are as follows:

Lecture One: How to Think about Foreign Policy?
30 January 2019
The first lecture situates the fundamental role of national interests in foreign policy. Why are Singapore’s national interests not better and more widely understood? The talk examines some common errors in thinking about foreign policy, as well as the creation and maintenance of relevance for a small city-state, and why small countries should not behave like small countries.

Watch the lecture.

Lecture Two: Origins I – Relations with Malaysia and Indonesia
20 February 2019
The second lecture conveys the inevitable complexity of relations with Singapore’s neighbours. It provides an overview of the systemic origins of bilateral tensions with our neighbours, focusing on the uses and abuses of history, and the roles of ‘baggage’ and personality. The talk ends with thoughts on how Singapore could manage complexity and cope with competing nationalisms with our neighbours.

Watch the lecture.

Lecture Three: Origins II – ASEAN: Vital but Limited
13 March 2019
 The third lecture discusses the origins of regionalism in Southeast Asia. It explains the necessity but also the limits of ASEAN. The talk will suggest that ‘it is pointless to criticise a cow for being an imperfect horse’.

Watch the lecture.

Lecture Four: The New Global and Regional Strategic Context
20 March 2019
The fourth lecture looks at the key factors driving change in the global and regional order. Issues to be explored include: the nature of US-China relations, coping with competing influences, the roles of Japan, India, Australia, Russia and the EU. The talk also offers thoughts as to why the future of East Asia will be multi-polar.

Watch the lecture.

Lecture Five: Future Challenges
3 April 2019
The final lecture in the series examines the interaction of foreign policy and domestic politics. It offers thoughts on how to manage uncertainty and emerging systemic vulnerabilities in Singapore.

Watch the lecture.

Love And Betrayal In Balingkang (Friday, 16 November 2018, 7:00PM)

The Department of Southeast Asian Studies presents “Love and Betrayal in Balingkang“, The story of King Sri Jayapangus and his Chinese wife, performed by students of SE3230 Seen and Unseen: Explorations in Balinese Theatre.


Synopsis:

Prembon was first performed in Bali in 1942 and combines some of the quintessential elements of Bali’s most famous theatrical genres – topeng (masked drama), gambuh (classical drama) and arja (sung opera). Prembon performances narrate stories from Balinese history and include dance, singing, narration, drama and comedy. All Prembon performances are accompanied by a full Balinese gamelan ensemble.

The story is taken from the Babad Bali/Dalem – the chronicles of the Kings of Bali. It tells of King Sri Jaya Pangus (1181-1269), ruler of Pejeng (currently a small town near Ubud) who was from the Warmadewa dynasty. He had fallen in love with Kang Ching Wie, the daughter of the Subandar Cina (Chinese port administrator). Their marriage was opposed by the court priest, Begawan Siwagana who believed that Sri Jaya Pangus was going against the rules of the royal house by marrying a non-Hindu non-Balinese. Angered by Sri Jaya Pangus’ stubborn refusal to call off the marriage, he cursed the kingdom with heavy rain and floods. Sri Jaya Pangus decides to leave Pejeng and establish his own kingdom called Balingkang (named after Bali + Kang, his wife’s family name). Despite having been married for a long time, Kang Ching Wie did not produce children and Sri Jaya Pangus decided to meditate and seek help from the gods so his wife could conceive. He travelled up the slopes of the Mountain Batur. It was here that he met Dewi Danu, the goddess of Lake Batur. Sri Jaya Pangus fell in love with Dewi Danu, never telling her about Kang Ching Wie. Dewi Danu had a son with the king whom they named Mayadenawa. Kang Ching Wie waited patiently for her husband to return but he never did. She eventually decided to search for him on Mount Batur. When she found out that he was with Dewi Danu, Kang Ching Wie was devastated. Dewi Danu was angered at the betrayal she felt as Sri Jaya Pangus had never informed her of his wife. In a fit of anger, she made both Sri Jaya Pangus and Kang Ching Wie disappear from the face of the earth. The residents of Balingkang who loved their king and queen, made two giant puppets (barong landing) to remind themselves of their rulers.

Performers: There will be musicians from Bali and dancers accompanying the NUS students in this 2 hour production.

Tickets: Priced at $15 each at the official booth set up along the Central Library Walkway from 22 Oct – 26 Oct 2018. Tickets can also be purchased directly from A/P Irving Johnson.

Be sure to join us for Singapore’s first ever Prembon performance on Friday 16 November 2018 at 7.00pm at LT13

FASS Bookshare – Thursday, 11 October 2018

FASS Bookshare celebrates and showcases books authored by faculty members who have dedicated years of research into their publications.

In previous years Bookshare has highlighted single-authored books in a range of disciplines and topics, such as Development, Migration, and Protest in Asia, Southeast Asian Cosmopolitanism, Urbanism, and Tourism, and Religion, Diaspora, and Travel.

This edition of Bookshare focuses on Southeast Asian Art, Culture, and Colonial History. 

 https://0.academia-photos.com/62407/17746/121289/s200_maurizio.peleggi.gif Professor Maurizio Peleggi will be speaking about his latest book, Monastery, Monument, Museum: Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory.
 
 https://0.academia-photos.com/17225187/4761598/5488149/s200_gerard.sasges.jpg Assistant Professor Gerard Sasges will talk about his new book Imperial Intoxication: Alcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina.
 
  Associate Professor David Teh will present on his recent book, Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary.

 

 

Date and Time: Thursday, 11 October, 12-1:45pm

Venue:  FASS Research Division Seminar Room, Level 6, Room 42, AS7 Shaw Foundation Building, 5 Arts Link, 117570

Attendance: If you would like to attend Bookshare, RSVP with your full name and email at the Eventbrite page. Seating is limited, so do RSVP early and if your plans change, please cancel the reservation.

Programme

12:00pm-12:15pm Registration and Refreshments
12:15-12:20pm Introduction by Chair, Associate Professor Itty Abraham
12:20-12:35pm Monastery, Monument, Museum: Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory by Professor Maurizio Peleggi
12:35-12:50pm Imperial Intoxication: Alcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina by Assistant Professor Gerard Sasges
12:50-1:05pm Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary by Associate Professor David Teh
1:05-1:20pm Q & A Session
1:20-1:45pm Refreshments

An Evening of Poetry with Keki Daruwalla – Chaired by Edwin Thumboo 29 July 7pm

Join eminent Indian poet, Keki N Daruwalla, for an evening of poetry, conversation and share his rich creative journey at the National Library. Chaired by poet Edwin Thumboo, visitors will also be able to discover more about each poet’s works from the National Library’s Literary Arts collection at a mini-book display. This event is organised by The Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore.

Keki N Daruwalla
Indian poet and writer Keki N Daruwalla (b. 1937) is a recipient of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Asia (1977), Sahitya Academy Award (1984) and the prestigious Padma Shri Award (2014).  He has written 10 poetry volumes, five short fiction collections, two novels and his third novel Swerving to Solitude is in press with Simon & Schuster.

Edwin Thumboo
Singapore poet and Emeritus Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature Edwin Thumboo (b.1933) has published several volumes of poetry including  award-winning poems “Ulysses by the Merlion” (1979) and “Gods Can Die” (1978).

Click here to register.