Trading security : understanding East Asian security-trade linkages in the twenty-first century.
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
In the contemporary East Asian security context, free trade is a double-edged sword that simultaneously secures and threatens the primary security referents and interests of periphery and semi-periphery states. This thesis aims to provide a much deeper and comprehensive understanding of the linkages between security and trade by examining the experiences of smaller and weaker countries in East Asia, in particular, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia. I argue that in their quest to enhance, promote and secure their state-centric (“statist”) and/or people-centric (“humanist”) security referents, these countries have learned to re-imagine and re-invent the utility of free trade at the start of the twenty-first century. Accordingly, trade has become an integral function of national security, particularly for East Asian states that have a marginal geo-economic size and geo-political position. However, to this point very little has been done in explaining the impetus and dynamics behind these linkages based on the overarching assumption of “cohabitative security” or the view that security encompasses both statist and humanist dimensions. Furthermore, there is a dearth of comprehensive theoretical and empirical analyses concerning linking efforts and strategies by the non-major powers in East Asia. This thesis attempts to address those gaps. Using a qualitative comparative method, I analyse both statist and humanist forms of security-trade linkages. On the one hand, I examine how small East Asian countries utilise free trade to promote, enhance and secure the primary referents of their national security policies and strategies. And on the other, I investigate the roles of security issues and threats (traditional and non-traditional) in the continuing relevance and proliferation of free trade in the region. To fulfill these objectives, the thesis performs three main tasks. First, I theoretically reconfigure the security concept by amalgamating the statist and humanist dimensions of security to establish a “cohabitative security” framework that will serve as the operative definition of security for this research. Second, I empirically analyse the linkages between cohabitative security referents (statist and humanist) and various types of free trade (multilateral, minilateral and bilateral). Third, and lastly, I outline three main themes based on the findings generated from the case analyses: (i) high levels of internal and external insecurity; (ii) multidimensional and multidirectional nature of security concepts, contexts, and threats; and (iii) marginal geo-economic size and geopolitical position. The thesis concludes by arguing that free trade is irrefutably being utilised by periphery and semi-periphery countries to promote, enhance and secure their statist and/or humanist security referents and interests. The rationales and motives behind these linkages vary significantly from one country to another. For example, in Taiwan, free trade might be viewed as a sovereignty-upgrading mechanism; in Singapore, a defence-upgrading tool; in the Philippines, a development-upgrading instrument; and in Malaysia, a diversity-upgrading apparatus. However, it is important to note that while the constructed rationales for these linkage efforts usually sound altruistic (that is, to advance national security interests) the real motives behind them are often less than benevolent (that is, to advance a regime, a party or a privileged group’s vested interests). Furthermore, the steady proliferation of preferential bilateral and minilateral trade amid all the difficulties impeding multilateral trade at the WTO has provided small countries in East Asia a strategic platform for pursuing a broad range of security interests – altruistically or otherwise. However, considering that free trade works like a double-edged sword, I make the corollary argument that states attempting to co-habit their security interests and trade agendas are essentially “trading security”. The reason is that for every additional security that a linkage provides, a corresponding insecurity is reflected in other referents. This is clearly illustrated by the four cases examined in the study. With respect to “statist linkages”, Taiwan’s linkage efforts can lead to the island’s complete assimilation with China; while Singapore’s linkage attempts may result in the city-state’s failure to strategically balance conflicting American and Chinese interests in the region. With respect to “humanist linkages”, the Philippines’ linkage attempts have preserved uneven economic development and reinforced the oligarchic system and patronage culture; while Malaysia’s linkage efforts have perpetuated racial inequalities and further legitimised the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional. Finally, in attempts to address both traditional and non-traditional security threats, East Asian countries (via their membership in APEC and ASEAN) have made some noteworthy progress in broadening and widening the respective agendas of these two regional organisations. Despite the limitations of their compliance mechanisms (or lack of them in some issue areas), the fact that both state and human security issues are now being openly discussed vis-à-vis free trade policies underlines the ongoing progress toward East Asian linkages.