Institutions and Organizations
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Visually banner card with the event title "Japan’s "Free and Open Indo-Pacific” Strategy: More Eloquent Japan and Domestic Political Institutions", and featuring a circle photo portrait of speaker Professor Harukata Takenaka

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has advocated “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” Vision in 2016, various scholars have analyzed policy formulation process of FOIP. Most of them refer to the rise of China as an influential power in the Indo-Pacific region with its own initiative, namely, the Belt and Road Initiative as a major factor which prompted the Second Abe Administration to launch FOIP.

It is the contention of this presentation that the current configuration of the Japanese political institutions has made it possible for the Second Abe administration to launch and pursue such a comprehensive strategy while an international factor is important. It demonstrates that a series of political reforms since 1990s have strengthened the power of the prime minister as an institution to initiate key cabinet policies and coordinate policy formulation among different ministries. The strong institutional foundation of the Japanese prime ministerial power has made it possible for the Abe administration to effectively pursue such a broad vision, engaging various ministries and organizations.

The existing research on Japan's diplomacy often evaluates Japan as a passive state. It considers that in the past Japan only responded to foreign pressure while it did not proactively push forward its own policies. The presentation suggests that Japan has changed and become more eloquent as a result of changes in domestic political institutions.

Speaker

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Square photo portrait of Harukata Takenaka
Harukata Takenaka is a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo. He holds a PhD from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Tokyo.

His key research areas are the role the prime minister in Japanese politics, changes in Japanese external policy, and democratization in Pre-war Japan.

Prof. Takenaka’s recent publications include: “Kyokoku Chugoku” to Taijisuru Indo-Taiheiyo Shokoku [Indo-Pacific Nations facing China aspiring to be a “Great Country”](edited) (Tokyo: Chikura Shobo, 2022), “Evolution of Japanese security policy and the House of Councilors,” Japanese Journal of Political Science, 22:2, (June 2021), 96-115, Korona Kiki no Seiji [Politics of Covid 19 Crisis](Tokyo: Chuo Koron Shinsha, 2020), “Expansion of the Japanese prime minister’s power in the Japanese parliamentary system: Transformation of Japanese politics and the institutional reforms,”Asian Survey,59:5:844-869 (September 2019); Futatsu no Seiken Kotai [Two Changes of Government] (edited) (Tokyo: Keiso Shobo, 2017); Failed Democratization in Prewar Japan (Stanford University Press 2014),

Harukata Takenaka Professor of Political Science National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Japan
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Christopher Giles is a researcher and open-source investigator focusing on information operations, and monitoring conflict and human rights issues.

Prior to joining Stanford University in 2021, Christopher reported on disinformation for BBC News, covering the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. election, where his reporting was “highly commended” by the Royal Statistical Society’s Journalism Awards. Christopher is a recipient of the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship and is pursing graduate studies in international policy and journalism.

Researcher, Stanford Internet Observatory

Herbert Hoover Memorial Building 107
434 Galvez Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6003

650.721.1780
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Affiliated Scholar, Deliberative Democracy Lab
Kleinheinz Fellow, Hoover Institution
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Valentin Bolotnyy is a Kleinheinz Fellow at the Hoover Institution and an Affiliated Scholar at CDDRL's Deliberative Democracy Lab. He designs and analyzes randomized experiments aimed at understanding how Americans communicate about politics and public policy, and what factors may lead to changes in public opinion on key issues. He also works on forming research partnerships with government agencies to improve public services and gain insight into social behavior. His recent studies have covered the America in One Room experiment, climate adaptation, the gender earnings gap, public infrastructure procurement, immigration policies, and graduate student mental health.

Bolotnyy’s work has received national attention in outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Vox, and American Theatre Magazine. He was awarded the Padma Desai Prize in Economics in 2019.

Bolotnyy received a PhD in Economics from Harvard University and a BA in Economics and International Relations, with honors and distinction, from Stanford University.

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Donald K. Emmerson
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An edited version of this opinion piece first appeared in the 14 July 2022 issue of The Jakarta Post.


How preoccupied is America with its own domestic problems? To the point of impairing the ability of President Biden’s administration to give Indonesia and Southeast Asia the foreign-policy attention they deserve?

The Group of Twenty’s meetings are now at or near the top of the Indonesian foreign ministry’s list of things to do. Foreign minister Retno Marsudi has worried, amid talk of boycotts, that Moscow-Washington animosity over Ukraine could ruin the G20 summit in Bali this November, to the embarrassment of its Indonesian host and chair. Presumably to her relief, Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to Indonesia to attend in person the preparatory G20 foreign ministers meeting that she hosted and chaired in Bali on 7-8 July 2022, and he did so despite the participation of his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.  In addition to holding a one-on-one session with Marsudi, Blinken also met with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi for a discussion of US-China relations that reportedly lasted five hours. Indonesia can take pride in having made that lengthy interaction possible. 

The foreign ministers’ meeting was not without drama. Twice, in response to criticism of Russia, Lavrov walked out of the room, and he left the conference altogether before it ended. Perhaps he forgot that in democracies, praise is not required.  But things in Bali could have gotten much worse, and in that sense America’s presence throughout the event helped save Indonesia’s face.

Biden’s administration has not neglected Indonesia or Southeast Asia, as recent diplomacy shows. In May he accommodated the priority on economic development favored by Indonesia and other Asian states by traveling to Japan to announce the formation of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). Its 14 founding partners, including Indonesia and six other ASEAN members, account for 40 percent of global GDP. Earlier in May, in Washington, DC, Biden hosted a special summit with Indonesia and other ASEAN states. Their Joint Vision Statement with the US, as in IPEF, emphasized economic cooperation.

None of this diplomacy, however, could temper the strident political polarization that continues to disrupt America. Understandably, that frenzy of distrust and dissension has led some Indonesians to wonder how reliable a partner the US will turn out to be in years to come.    

The splitting of many Americans into rival partisan camps is in part structural. For example, compared with better-educated urban and suburban dwellers, less well-educated rural and small-town Americans are more likely to hold right-wing Republican views. The reasons why those views have become more extreme include the popularity of Donald Trump and his anti-democratic if not proto-fascistic campaign to re-install himself in the White House after losing the free and fair election of 2020.  His effort, Republican complicity in it, and the backlash against it have widened the separation of often coastal or near-coastal Democratic states from Republican ones more or less clustered in middle and southern America. Political scientist and statistician Simon Jackman goes so far as to argue that the US has not been this divided politically since the Great Depression of the 1930s—or possibly even since the 1860s Civil War.

The Vanderbilt University Project on Unity and American Democracy chooses the longer timeline. “Not since the Civil War,” it concludes, “have so many Americans held such radically opposed views not just of politics but of reality itself.” The project’s own findings, however, undermine the caricature of a country fatally hobbled by national schizophrenia and group delusions. 

The Vanderbilt Unity Index combines quarterly data from 1981 to 2021 on five variables—presidential disapproval, congressional polarization, ideological extremism, social mistrust, and civil unrest—to calculate changes in American national unity across those four decades on a 0-to-100 scale, from least to most unified. Over that period of time, the index has fluctuated in a close to middling zone between 50 and 70 on that 100-point scale. 

The index shows deep plunges in unity only twice since 1981, and both of those dives were linked to the uniquely calamitous presidency of President Trump. In contrast, the average score during the first five quarters of the Biden administration has been 58, a sharp improvement from the average of 51 under Trump. Heartened by that betterment, two of the Vanderbilt scholars surmise that America’s “disharmony may be dissipating.”

That could be an overoptimistic guess. Unity is one thing, victory another. Legislative elections will be held on 8 November this year. As of the end of June, prominent forecaster Nate Silver gave the still largely Trump-beholden Republican Party an 87 percent chance — a near-certainty — of replacing Biden’s Democrats as the majority party in the House of Representatives. The race for a majority in the Senate was too close to call. But even if Republicans control only the House, they will likely use that platform to undermine Biden’s administration during his final two years in office.      

As if likely losses of legislative power were not enough for Biden to worry about, maneuvers by Republicans to stack the Supreme Court with right-wing partisans have tilted that juridical balance steeply in their favor. The court’s new reactionary 6-to-3 majority has already made two shocking decisions. They have, in effect, denied women their long-standing right to abortion and made it easier to carry a concealed gun in public. Republicans claim to support individual rights. But they and their court appointees have deleted the long-standing constitutional right of a pregnant woman to decide whether to give birth or not, thereby depriving her of assured responsibility over her physical body and personal future. 

Regarding gun violence, in barely five months from 1 January through 5 June of this year, America has experienced 246 mass shootings — incidents that kill or wound four or more people. That puts the US on track in 2022 to match or exceed its record of 692 mass shootings in 2021, more than in any year since the Gun Violence Archive began counting them. The Republican-majority court’s unconscionable impulses seem to be to make women make more babies, wanted or not, and to make murders more likely as well.

There is good news. First, a massive popular backlash against these Republican decisions has either begun or is likely. Second, a nationally televised Congressional investigation of the violent attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 has displayed the complicity of Trump, and by association the Trump-infected Republican Party, in an insurrection that killed at least seven people and injured roughly 150 more. Third, although Trump may not end up where he belongs, namely, in jail, at least he faces Republican rivals for the party’s nomination to run for president in 2024. Conceivably those rivals could come to include a candidate who is politically more moderate and personally less criminal, corrupt, and narcissistic than he. 

President Joko Widodo will host the G20 leaders in Indonesia merely one week after the 8 November 2022 midterm legislative election takes place in the US. Will Biden go again to Bali? Not if at that time right-wing fanatics claiming election fraud are destabilizing America. For long-term interactions between Jakarta and Washington relations, however, what will matter is not who will attend the 2022 G20 summit in Bali. It will be the names and plans of the Indonesians and Americans who will run and win in the national elections to be held in their respective countries in 2024.


Donald K. Emmerson heads the Southeast Asia Program at Stanford University's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. His recent publications include an edited volume, The Deer and the Dragon: Southeast Asia and China in the 21st Century.

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Flanked by Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (L) and President of Indonesia Joko Widodo (R), U.S. President Joe Biden points towards the camera.
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In Southeast Asia, the United States Needs to Up its Economic Game

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In Southeast Asia, the United States Needs to Up its Economic Game
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Enze Han with background of Encina hall colonade
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Rethinking China’s Influence in Southeast Asia: The Role of Non-State Actors and Unintended Consequences

Departing from international relations scholarship and popular media accounts that tend to portray China as a great power intent on establishing a sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellow on Southeast Asia Enze Han argues for conceptualizing China as an unconventional great power whose diverse actors, particularly non-state ones, impact its influence in the region.
Rethinking China’s Influence in Southeast Asia: The Role of Non-State Actors and Unintended Consequences
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For long-term Jakarta and Washington relations, what will matter is not who will attend the 2022 G20 summit in Bali. It will be the names and plans of the Indonesians and Americans who will run and win in the national elections to be held in their respective countries in 2024.

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Published in Shoji Homu, the leading business law journal in Japan, this article analyzes problematic aspects of a recent, controversial Japanese Supreme Court decision on the approval by a vote of the majority-of-the-minority shareholders (known as "MoM") of a "poison pill" defense against an activist shareholder. The coauthors point out that MoM was borrowed from Delaware corporate law, where it is used in a very different context, and highlight MoM's potential for abuse by target company management in Japan’s prevailing corporate governance environment.

They conclude by proposing a new form of a poison pill for Japanese companies that protects shareholders against structurally coercive bids and is consistent with existing Japanese judicial doctrine requiring shareholder approval of defensive measures, while simultaneously promoting all cash, all shares tender offers to improve economic returns to shareholders.

Title in Japanese: "Tokyo kikai seisakusho jiken ga teikishita mondai to shin J-Pill no teian"

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Melissa Morgan
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In 1999, Lyubov Sobol was a serious eleven-year-old with aspirations to be a Sherlock Holmes-style private detective. That same year, Vladimir Putin, a small-time FSB agent and mid-level cabinet member for former Leningrad mayor Anatoly Sobchak, was abruptly placed into the national spotlight by then-president Boris Yeltsin. Never in her wildest dreams could young Lyubov have imagined that 20 years later, she would be facing off against now-President Putin and working on the front lines to investigate and expose the corruption of the most powerful people in Russia.

For the last twelve years, Sobol has been a lawyer and political activist with the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Russia (FKB), the country’s most prominent pro-democracy movement. She works closely with the group’s founder, Alexei Navalny, to push for the democratization of Russia and advocate against Putin's policies through on-the-ground and digital outreach. She is currently at Stanford as a visiting scholar with the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL).

As the war in Ukraine continues and free speech and other rights within Russia are further curtailed, many activists, Sobol included, have had to adapt or leave the country. To help contextualize the work she and other activists are currently doing, she explains where the roots of the democracy movement in modern Russia began, and the place she hopes it will take on the global stage in the future.
 


Corruption is a foundational element of the system Vladimir Putin and his cronies built. Without removing him and his supporters from power, it will not be possible for serious reforms or the democratization of state mechanisms to take place.
Lyubov Sobol
CDDRL Visiting Scholar


Let’s start with a broad look at opposition movements and their place in modern Russia. What role have opposition movements played in Russian society since the end of the Soviet Era in the late 1980s and early 1990s?

After the attempt by the Communist Party of Russia to forcibly seize political control in the 1991 August Coup, the course towards democratic reforms was supported by the majority of the Russian population. However, the democratic politicians were divided, and they had little to no experience with public political activity or organizing participation in elections. They failed to offer a clear, intelligible  plan for reforming the country and get it across to voters.                     

With the exception of certain leaders like Foreign Minister A. Kozyrev, human rights ombudsman S. Kovalev, and Deputy Prime Minister B. Nemtsov, truly democratic politicians were not widely represented in power at this time, and did not have a significant influence on state policy. Many of the politicians in power used pro-democracy ideals and the language of human rights as a mask to further their own, more selfish interests. Then with the economic crash in 1998, radical rhetoric and a revitalized communist party began to regain support.

Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin.
Boris Yeltsin hands over the “presidential” copy of the Russian constitution to Vladimir Putin. (December 31, 1999) Wikimedia Commons

Ultimately, a strong democratic party never emerged in Russia and deeply rooted democratic institutions were not built. The corruption and false promises corroded trust in democracy and undermined many Russian’s belief in liberalism. When Putin came to power in the late 90s, he took advantage of the chaos and further crushed many of the structures of the state. By the 2000s, he had tightened control over the legislature and elections and removed almost all competition from within the power system.

Today, few opposition forces survive. The leading figure is Alexei Navalny, and the goal of his movement has been to promote the idea of democratic change and the change of Putin's regime as essential prerequisite for other structural reforms in Russia. His followers were refused the right to register as an official political party under false, far-fetched pretexts, and the organization was declared by the state as an extremist organization and subjected to countless, baseless criminal charges. Like most opposition politicians, Navalny is now in prison. But these attacks only show how in the last 10 years, he has truly become a viable competitor that Vladimir Putin’s regime fears.

Alexey Navalny marches with protestors in Moscow.
Alexei Navalny, Anna Veduta, and Ilya Yashin march at a pro-democracy rally in Moscow on June 12, 2013. WIkimedia Commons

You work with the Anti-Corruption Foundation (Фонд борьбы с коррупцией), which was founded by Alexei Navalny in 2011. What has your network’s approach been to combatting corruption and systemic issues in Russia?

Our team investigates corruption crimes and collects legal evidence that we send to various law enforcement agencies as part of our efforts to bring those responsible to justice. At the same time, we focus public attention on these problems, demonstrating the negative impact that corruption and criminal activity has on all spheres of life. It’s important for people to understand that corruption is a foundational element of the system Vladimir Putin and his cronies built. Without removing him and his supporters from power, it will not be possible for serious reforms or deep democratization of state mechanisms to take place.

We’ve actively worked to propose anti-corruption bills and support those who are trying to ratify international standards like article 20 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which criminalizes illicit enrichment. Representatives of our team have participated in elections and conducted dozens of election campaigns throughout the country at all levels of government, from municipal and regional to the presidential elections in the Russian Federation. Our team also worked with authoritative Russian economists and experts such as Sergei Guriev and Sergei Aleksashenko to develop projects for economic and political reforms.

We’ve won several elections in both city and regional parliaments, and have also developed and successfully applied the Smart Voting project to help coordinate voting in support of promising opponents of Putin's United Russia party. But all this being said, we’ve faced strong opposition from the authorities, the police, and the FSB with each victory.
 


Opposition pro-democratic forces are partners with the West. Putin can only offer the world blackmails on energy, the threats of nuclear war, and a global food crisis. We offer stable business relationships and peaceful, constructive foreign policy.
Lyubov Sobol
CDDRL Visiting Scholar

How have you and other activists had to adapt since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the further crackdowns in Russia against opposition voices and protests?

Repressions against our team began even before the attack on Ukraine. In the fall of 2020, the FSB tried to kill Alexei Navalny by poisoning him with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. After an investigation into this poisoning and his return to Russia, he was imprisoned. Our group, the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FKB) was declared an extremist group and a foreign agent by the Kremlin and liquidated. In practice, this means we are banned from participating in political work like elections and protests. This has essentially created a ban on any political opposition activity in Russia.

Under such conditions, most of our team has evacuated to neighboring countries and continues to work from exile. We still influence the minds and moods in Russia through our internet media resources, which have an audience of millions. Conducting one-time protests is currently impossible in the country due to the introduction of repressive laws, but we continue to encourage our supporters to participate in elections under the Smart Voting strategy. We stand up for increasing the number of our supporters and for the trust of the people, while increasing the political costs for Putin, reducing his personal rating, and diminishing the standing of the United Russia party.

Muscovites protest against the war in Ukraine.
Muscovites protest against the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Wikimedia Commons

What can supporters of democracy across the world do to help the work you and other activists from Russia are doing?

After the attack on Ukraine, the best thing the rest of the world can do is to help Ukraine to get everything it needs to win this war. Ukraine's victory is Putin's loss.

The war unleashed by Putin is criminal not only in relation to Ukraine and Ukrainians, but also to Russia. It contradicts Russia’s national interests and literally destroys its future. Putin and his regime are a common enemy for Russians, Ukrainians, and the entire democratic world.

But the war is not only on the battlefields and in the Ukrainian cities. This war has an economic front, and Western countries need to intensify their efforts to deprive the Kremlin of its resources to continue the war. There also needs to be much tougher personal sanctions against Putin’s officials and propagandists.
 


The outcome [of this war] will determine the vector of development for the entire world: either towards democracy or to totalitarianism. That’s why . . . this war is important not only for the people of Ukraine and Russia, but for everyone, everywhere.
Lyubov Sobol
CDDRL Visiting Fellow

Despite what the propaganda tries to portray, Russia is not homogenous and support for Putin is far from being ironclad. Putin has not won the entire information war for Russian’s attitudes. That’s why we at FKB consider it our duty to continue countering false information and tell Russians the truth about the war and Putin’s crimes.

We want the democratic community to understand how important this work is for victory in the war and the post-war reconstruction of Russia. While the physical fighting might be localized to Eastern Europe, the war will have far-reaching consequences across the globe. Its outcome will determine the vector of development for the entire world: either towards democracy or to totalitarianism. That’s why victory on the side of justice and rights in this war is important not only for the people of Ukraine and Russia, but for everyone, everywhere.
 

Liubov Sobol

Lyubov Sobol

Activist and CDDRL Visiting Scholar
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U.S Russia Relations Putin and Biden
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U.S.-Russia relations, one year after Geneva

The June 16, 2021 meeting in Geneva between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a positive impulse to a bilateral U.S.-Russia relationship that was plumbing post-Cold War depths. Both sides made modest progress in the following months, only to be wholly derailed by Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine. It will be a long time before the U.S.-Russia relationship can approach anything that resembles “normal.”
U.S.-Russia relations, one year after Geneva
President Zelenskky addresses Stanford students and community members via a live video address in the CEMEX auditorium.
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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Calls on Students to Lead as Future Ambassadors in a Special Video Address at Stanford

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to the Stanford community in a special video address about his country’s war against Russia for independence, freedom, and global democracy, which he said requires the continued support of all the people of the free world.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Calls on Students to Lead as Future Ambassadors in a Special Video Address at Stanford
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Will Democracies Remain United As Putin Intensifies His Destruction of Ukraine?

CISAC Senior Fellow Norman Naimark discusses in Background Briefing with Ian Masters.
Will Democracies Remain United As Putin Intensifies His Destruction of Ukraine?
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Lyubov Sobol, an activist and current visiting scholar at CDDRL, explains the roots of Russia's pro-democracy movement and the importance of its success to Russia, Ukraine, and the future stability of the global democratic community.

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3D mockup cover of APARC's volume 'South Korea's Democracy in Crisis'

South Korea's Democracy in Crisis: The Threats of Illiberalism, Populism, and Polarization 
위기의 한국 민주주의: 비자유주의, 포퓰리즘, 양극화의 위협

In this book launch event held in Korea, the participants will examine and discuss the threats to democracy in Korea. For more information about the book, please visit the publication webpage.

<The book launch event will be in Korean>

14:00-14:05 Introduction by Ho-Ki Kim, Professor of Sociology, Yonsei University

Moderated by Dukjin Chang, Professor of Sociology, Seoul National University

14:05-15:20 Presentations

Democracy in Crisis: Populism in Post-Truth Era
Gi-Wook Shin, Director of Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University
Ho-Ki Kim, Professor of Sociology, Yonsei University

Two divergences in South Korea’s Economy and Disparities in Democracy
Jun-Ho Jeong, Professor of Economics, Kangwon University
Il-Young Lee, Professor of Economics, Hanshin University

Judicialization of Politics and Politicization of  the Judiciary in Korea : Challenges in Maintaining the Balance of Power
Seongwook Heo, Professor of Law, Seoul National University

15:20-15:40 Break

15:40-16:55 Panel Discussion

Won-Taek Kang, Professor of Political Science, Seoul National University
Seeun Jeong, Professor of Economics, Chungnam National University
Chulwoo Lee, Professor of Law, Yonsei University

16:55-17:00 Closing Remarks by Gi-Wook Shin, Director of Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University

In-Person event in Korea
June 14, 2PM-5PM, Korea Time
Press Center, Seoul

Seminars
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Steven Pifer
Daniel Fried
Alexander Vershbow
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During a period of greater hope for Russia tempered by uncertainties, President Bill Clinton sought both to enlarge NATO and build a strategic partnership between the Alliance and Moscow. As part of his National Security Council staff, we three worked on the approach that produced the 1997 “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation.” It formalized a NATO-Russia relationship that we thought of as a potential “alliance with the Alliance” and contained security assurances for Moscow.

While the Founding Act produced tangible results in its early years, Europe today faces an aggressive, revanchist Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions have destroyed the basis for cooperation. NATO should suspend the Founding Act and, in particular, renounce its assurance regarding the stationing of conventional forces on the territory of new member states.

Read the rest at The Hill

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During a period of greater hope for Russia tempered by uncertainties, President Bill Clinton sought both to enlarge NATO and build a strategic partnership between the Alliance and Moscow.

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Noa Ronkin
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When U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a major China policy speech on May 26, 2022, outlined the Biden administration's strategy to outcompete China, he noted that China “has announced its ambition to create a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and to become the world’s leading power.” But what exactly is China's influence, and how do we know it when we see it? These are some of the questions Dr. Enze Han seeks to answer.

Han, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong's Department of Politics and Public Administration, joined APARC as a Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellow on Contemporary Southeast Asia for the 2022 spring quarter. The fellowship, which is hosted jointly by APARC’s Southeast Asia Program (SeAP) and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore, enabled Han to advance his research into Southeast Asia’s relations with China. He recently discussed his work in a seminar hosted by SeAP.

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Conceptualizing China as an Unconventional Great Power

Most studies on China’s presence in Southeast Asia tend to focus on China’s power dynamics and how it wields it to gain influence within the region. The emphasis is on intention and causation: how China willingly uses its power to coerce, coopt, or persuade Southeast Asian states to behave in particular ways. This characterization, Han argues, ignores the contemporary Chinese state as fragmented, decentralized, and internationalized. Han goes beyond this conventional approach to explore the variety of actors and the intended versus unintended outcomes associated with China’s presence in Southeast Asia. It is necessary to understand such nuance and complexity, he claims, if we are to make sense of China’s relations with Southeast Asian states.

China’s presence in Southeast Asia is by no means monolithic, notes Han. Rather, it takes numerous everyday forms and involves not only state actors, such as diplomatic missions and state-owned enterprises, but also non-state actors that may or may not be closely associated with the Chinese state. These include civil society organizations, private businesses, and ordinary Chinese citizens who reside in Southeast Asia for work, study, or retirement, in addition to Chinese tourists. The actions of these multiple stakeholders can have intended and unintended consequences, Han argues. In particular, the effects of non-state Chinese actors’ daily encounters with local communities in Southeast Asia deserve attention, he says.

Shadow Economy and Offshore Gambling in Eastern Myanmar

Consider, for instance, the case of the “new city” of Shwe Kokko in Myanmar’s Southeastern Kayin State (known as 'Karen State' among the ethnic-Karen population living there), on the border with Thailand. The emerging “Chinatown” project in Shwe Kokko began attracting international attention as capital investment flowed into the former farmland on the banks of the Moei River and residential complexes, hotels, shops, Chinese restaurants, and glitzy casinos sprang up. Allegations of Chinese mafia involvement have plagued the massive city project, and media outlets and Western observers attributed culpability to the Chinese government, portraying the project as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

However, Han points out that empirical details show that the new city project was led by a company headed by a fugitive Chinese businessman fleeing the Chinese government’s crackdown on illegal offshore gambling. Therefore, Shwe Kokko is not quite a case of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative expansionism using complex networks of PRC citizens and ethnic Chinese in a neighboring country to fuel dangerous activities colluding with Chinese officials and government agencies. Instead, it demonstrates how shadow economies like the online gambling industry are responding to regulatory attempts by the Chinese state. According to Han, to make sense of the Shwe Kokko story, one must understand who the non-state actors are and how they interact with local communities in Southeast Asian borderlands.

Market Demand and Agricultural Transformation in Northern Myanmar

Now turn to Northern Myanmar, where Han conducted fieldwork in 2019. Over the past decade, he explains, Northern Myanmar has undergone accelerated deforestation due to rising agricultural production in response to increasing demand for grains such as maize and their elevated global commodity market prices. In Myanmar’s Shan State, which borders China, the expansion of maize cultivation is closely related to a surge in Chinese demand for animal feed resulting from the rising domestic consumption of meat. However, a Chinese state ban on maize import from Myanmar had created rampant smuggling coupled with irregular enforcement of border inspections and schisms between the commodity production cycle and financing for local farmers.

One may draw a correlation between the rising demand for meat consumption in China that seemingly created a ripple effect in Myanmar, leading to the expansion of maize cultivation, deforestation, and economic precarity for local farmers. But then again, is this a case of Chinese influence operations? There is no evidence pointing to such deliberate attempts by the Chinese state to influence its neighboring country, although the resulting economic and environmental consequences are related to conditions in China.

Thus, Han argues, understanding an increasingly globalized China and its variegated impacts around the world requires conceptual flexibility. In particular, when referring to China's presence and influence in Southeast Asia, one must not assume a monolith with hegemonic designs for its neighboring states but rather differentiate between multiple types of actors with long histories and multifaceted consequences, both intended and unintended.

Enze Han

Enze Han

Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellow on Contemporary Southeast Asia, 2021-2022
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ASEAN leaders during a Summit discussion.
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As graduation approaches, many of our students are looking toward the future and new opportunities beyond the Farm. For the members of the Class of 2022 in the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy (MIP), their time at Stanford was particularly unique. While they've finished their program together and in-person, the 24 members of the graduating class began their journey at the Freeman Spogli Institute for Internationsl Studies with a mix of online learning, outdoor classes, and health check requirements put in place to help mitigate the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

Now at the end of their two years in the program we’ve asked four of our graduating students to share their thoughts on their time in MIP, what they’ve learned while at FSI, and where they will be heading next.


Sylvie Ashford | Starting with Questions, Not Answers


I am a co-term student, and I’m finishing up my B.A. in International Relations and Arabic at Stanford, with Honors in Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. I’m originally from Washington, D.C, and before coming to MIP I worked as a Middle East policy research assistant and campaign field organizer. 

MIP was exactly what I hoped it would be. The program brings together fascinating people from different countries and life paths. I learned so much from them in and out of the classroom, which ended up being one of the most meaningful aspects of the program. Particularly after spending the first half of the program on Zoom, I loved every time we were able to come together as a cohort for classes and social events this year.

Being a part of this community has definitely changed how I think about the process of policymaking. What I've really come to understand is that policymaking should start with a question, not an answer, and with a rigorous effort to understand a specific social problem in its own context. After graduation, I'm moving to San Francisco to work at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and I know that keeping that perspective in mind will be a huge help to me as I’m doing policy analysis and advocacy work to support the NRDC's Climate and Clean Energy Program.

Sylvie Ashford

Sylvie Ashford

Master's in International Policy '22, Energy, Natural Resources, and the Environment (ENRE)
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David Sprague | MIP Training, Military Service


When I first started as an MIP student, I didn’t realize how flexible the program would be or how many options there are to study in different fields. The program really emphasizes how to approach policy making through practical considerations, not just wishful thinking, whether that’s in computer programming and coding, international affairs, climate science, business, design thinking, or any of the other topics policy covers. There’s a lot of crossover with other programs on campus like the design school and the Graduate School of Business, I think this dynamic gives students a policy framework that's grounded in sound political strategies. 

It’s definitely been a busy two years. Beyond being a MIP student, I’m also an active duty officer in the U.S. army, and I have a family. I’ve been very appreciative of how I was able to work within the program to try and keep all of those different responsibilities in balance. This is the best location, hands down, to pursue a policy degree, and there are so many opportunities to get experience with things you truly value, whether that’s family, friends, researching a topic you have strong opinions about, coding, or surfing.

After graduation, I will be returning to the Army to be an operations officer, or a prime integrator, in organizations ranging from 700 to 10,000 soldiers. I know that what I’ve learned here at FSI in the master’s program — both about policy making and myself — is going to help me serve our men and women in uniform better.

Dave Sprague, Master's in International Policy ('22)

David Sprague

Master's in International Policy '22, Cyber Policy and Security (CYBER)
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Shirin Kashani | Moving Forward, but Not Away


I am graduating this June, but I’m not going far! The program helped me realize my dreams to continue my career in academia, and so I will be pursuing a PhD in political science here at Stanford.

Part of the MIP experience is the one-on-one advisor matching that the program organizes for students. I was paired with Dr. Jeremy Weinstein, and he was so genuinely helpful and keen on setting me up for success. He met with me every two weeks to help me plan and prepare to be a competitive, successful PhD candidate after MIP.

For any students coming into the program, I would strongly advise you take advantage of how flexible the program is. The four specializations — Cyber, Environment, Governance and Development, and International Security — are there to guide you, not to put you in a box. Take courses from departments in your interests and customize your electives to whatever you think will help you. Don’t be afraid to go beyond what’s expected of you in the program to explore and make the best out of your two years on the Stanford campus!

Shirin Abrishami Kashani, Master's in International Policy ('22)

Shirin Kashani

Master's in International Policy '22, Governance and Development (GOVDEV)
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Mikk Raud | Coming Full Circle


Prior to starting this master’s program, I spent eight years studying and working in Beijing and Hong Kong, where I most recently worked for a global risk consultancy, assisting multinational companies with assessing cyber risk, threats, and regulations, as well as crisis management. One of my goals here at Stanford was to pivot away from Asia and refocus my studies in cyber security and cyber policy in the U.S.

Because it’s right in Silicon Valley and so close to the leading industries, the MIP program here at Stanford was my top choice of school, and it has not disappointed. Aside from being able to closely interact with top faculty members and professors such as Frank Fukuyama, I got to see guest speakers such as President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, and other high-level U.S. military officials that Stanford has brought to campus to speak to students. I’ve learned so much from classes like “INTLPOL 340: Technology, Innovation and Modern War,” taught by Steve Black and Joe Felter, and groups like the Hack Lab.

As my time at Stanford comes to an end, my academic experience and industry experience are making a full circle, and I will be going to work with the global financial technology firm where I interned over the summer. I will be working on technology and information security issues while I am in the U.S. by using the one year of optional practical training (OPT). Given the current events in Ukraine and their proximity to my native Estonia, at some point I would also like to be able to contribute my skills and experience back home.

Mikk Raud

Mikk Raud

Master's in International Policy '22, Cyber Policy and Security (CYBER)
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Capstones from the 2022 Class of the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy

Each of the students in the 2022 class of the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy has had the opportunity to practice policymaking and problem solving hands-on in the Policy Change Studio, the two-quarter capstone course of the MIP program. Each year, second-year students partner with NGOs, think tanks, and other groups around the world to get out of the classroom and into the world to bring their know-how to some of the world's most pressing issues.

To learn more about what the 2022 cohort has been working on, explore some of the capstone presentations below.

The Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy

Want to learn more? MIP holds admission events throughout the year, including graduate fairs and webinars, where you can meet our staff and ask questions about the program.

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Students from the 2022 cohort of the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy have been working all over the world with policy partners as part of their capstone projects.
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Off the Farm and Into the Field: Master's Students Practice Hands-on Policymaking

The 2022 cohort of the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy has been busy this quarter getting out of the classroom and into hands-on policymaking with partner organizations in Tunisia, Estonia, India and beyond.
Off the Farm and Into the Field: Master's Students Practice Hands-on Policymaking
Students from the 2022 cohort of the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy participate in the Policy Change Studio.
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Where Our Master's Students are Making Policy Impacts in 2022

From women's health and reproductive rights in India to cybersecurity issues in Washington D.C., students from the 2022 cohort of the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy are tackling big policy projects in the Policy Change Studio.
Where Our Master's Students are Making Policy Impacts in 2022
MIP Class of 2022
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Meet the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy Class of 2022

The new cohort of MIP students kicked off an unusual fall quarter last week. Four of the first-year students describe what attracted them to the program and their hopes for the future.
Meet the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy Class of 2022
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As the 2022 cohort of Master’s in International Policy students prepares to graduate, four classmates — Sylvie Ashford, David Sprauge, Shirin Kashani, and Mikk Raud — reflect on their experiences being part of the FSI community.

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