Title Date & Time
Post-Crisis Capacity-Building in Singapore and ASEAN
Dr WOO Jun Jie, National University of Singapore

Abstract:  Faced with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has sought to develop a range of multilateral institutions for combating crises. These include the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies and the Covid-19 ASEAN Response Fund. A new Regional Centre for the Future of Work was also recently established to prepare ASEAN for the changing nature of work in a post-Covid environment.  Playing a critical role in many of these platforms is Singapore, which has itself embarked on an extensive capacity-building drive. In this talk, I will discuss these platforms and initiatives from the perspective of policy capacity. As the policy environment becomes increasingly complex and volatile, there is much scope for joint capacity-building at the regional level.  

29 Mar 2021 (Mon)
Why democrats abandon democracy: Evidence from four survey experiments
Dr Eve Warburton , National University of Singapore

Abstract: In several world regions, democracy is in retreat. This retreat is taking place amid growing polarization in many countries, and analysts are increasingly concerned with the role that deepening political divisions play in processes of democratic decline. This article investigates the relationship between partisan polarization and deteriorating public support for democratic institutions. It leverages the case of Indonesia, a major third-wave democracy now in the midst of a democratic regression. Indonesia’s political landscape has become more ideologically polarized in recent years, despite the strength of clientelist networks and low levels of party identification. Using four survey experiments, we find that Indonesians embrace illiberal interventions and abandon democratic institutions when exposed to party and leadership cues. These results suggest that political polarization may prompt citizens to abandon democratic norms even in democracies without strong partisan identities.

Diego Fossati (City University of Hong Kong), Burhanuddin Muhtadi (Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, Indonesia), Eve Warburton (National University of Singapore)

Please click for zoom record of the seminar.

15 Mar 2021 (Mon)
The Origins of Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ in the Philippines
Dr Sol Iglesias, Visiting Affiliate, National University of Singapore

Abstract: President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” campaign has killed an estimated 30,000 people, an unprecedented level of violence amid a long history of conflict and murderous elections in the Philippines. My research explains political violence in the country from 2001 until Duterte’s election in 2016, the period in which this particular form of “anti-crime” violence emerged. Why does political violence persist in a democracy? Explaining the Philippine case as a failure of democratic consolidation is not enough. The key is to understand how a weak state governs: specific patterns of political violence are contingent upon central-local dynamics. Overall, I find that the state remains the biggest producer of sustained political violence—mainly related to counterinsurgency. Without a monopoly over the legitimate (and illegitimate) use of force, the state seeks to regulate violence in society. Locally led, particularistic violence over elections tends to be low in intensity unless it is quasi-statist and centrally supported—such as the “anti-crime”, Davao City death squad killings linked to Duterte himself. The Philippines remains a weak state, but it has a relatively “strong” capacity for violence oriented toward primacy, not monopoly. 

For those interested in viewing Dr Iglesias' dissertation on which this talk was based the link is here:

8 Mar 2021 (Mon)
Cambodia and China: An Archaeological Perspective
Dr Sharon Wong, Assistant Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Abstract: This talk investigates Khmer ceramic production and its interactive relationship with China during the Angkorian period (C.E. 802-1431) in an archaeological perspective. Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire in mainland Southeast Asia. The Khmer Empire covered modern Cambodia, Northeast Thailand, Southern Vietnam, Laos and Tenasserim of Myanmar. It argues that the intensive interregional trade and interactions with China was one of the crucial factors for the regional expansion of Khmer political power during the Angkorian period. Combining archaeological excavation findings with comparative analyses of two regions, this talk discusses that the contact the Khmer had with China motivated Khmer to begin ceramic production for local residences and temples. To what extent did the Khmer people make technological and social choices as they embraced new ceramic manufacturing technologies? How does archaeology provide a new placing of Angkor into the interregional trading networks of medieval Asia?

Please click for zoom record of the seminar.

22 Feb 2021 (Mon)
Global Hong Kong Speaker Series: Authoritarian Resilience or Democratic Pluralism? Singapore’s Fork in the Road
16 Jan 2021 (Sat)
How Do Iconic Dissidents Behave in Their First Elected Office? Aung San Suu Kyi as Backbencher (2012-2016)
Dr Renaud Egreteau, Associate Professor, City University of Hong Kong

Abstract:  How do totemic political dissidents behave once propelled into their first elected office? Can the resources and strategies they initially develop explain their subsequent electoral (mis)fortunes? This talk investigates the legislative activity of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's iconic politician, when she was an opposition backbencher in Myanmar’s first ‘post-junta’ parliament (2012-2016). It draws evidence from Burmese-language proceedings and field interviews to shed light on the behaviour and tactics used by such a near-mythical figure transitioning from a position of informal authority to official power. What legislative tools did the iconic dissident use in a legislature dominated by an army-backed ruling party and military-appointed legislators? Did she act as party whip? Did she model herself as a frontbencher disciplining MPs, and steadily holding government bodies accountable? What does her legislative action (or lack thereof) tell us about the role and influence of emblematic dissenters propelled into their first elected post?

23 Nov 2020 (Mon)
Influences, Unintended Consequences, and Ripple Effects: Conceptualizing the Presence of China in Mainland Southeast Asia
Dr Enze Han, Associate Professor, University of Hong Kong

Abstract:  Existing studies on China’s relations with Southeast Asia tend to focus on China’s power dynamics with regional states, and how such power has been used to achieve influence in the region. Focusing on the intentionality, influence is thus defined as how China uses its power to coerce, induce, and persuade others to behave in a particular way. Relatedly, much emphasis has been put on the Chinese state as the willing agent. This talk goes beyond such convention, and intends to explore, in addition to influences, what are the unintended consequences and ripple effects related with the presence of China in Southeast Asia. This talk thus lays down a typology for thinking through the varieties of China’s presence in Southeast Asia in their everyday forms. It argues that we need to understand such complexity to make sense of China’s relations with Southeast Asia and the implications of such relations.  

Please click for zoom record of the seminar.

19 Oct 2020 (Mon)