China, South Korea, and Japan’s Responses to U.S. Pressures

since the Global Financial Crisis

We are witnessing the loosening of the international trade order as the U.S. initiated trade war against its trading partners intensifies. At such a pivotal point, this book aims to explain why China, South Korea, and Japan’s responses to U.S. protectionist pressures are different. This book argues that the responses to U.S. protectionist pressures by East Asian states have not been uniform, not merely owing to the geopolitical underpinnings of the bilateral relationships, but because of the institutional variance in trade policymaking in each of the countries. For the longest time, scholars have relied on the existence of bilateral security alliances in order to gauge policy responses from U.S. trading partners in times of U.S. economic pressures. This book offers an alternative narrative of institutionalism for predicting state responses, and argues through a two-step process that involves a) identifying the dominant player in the trade policymaking based on the levels of bureaucratic autonomy, and b) deciphering the policy preferences of the dominant player in each political system. My central argument in this book is that if we are to forecast the behavior of states in the trade war, relying solely on the geopolitical dimension for analysis is far from the complete picture, especially at a time when geopolitics and geoeconomics go hand in hand. Moreover, the containment logic that the U.S. continues to impose is losing momentum and is not likely to result in success, because times have changed.

This book project is based on a decade of on-site research consisting of interviews with government officials, policy analysts, lawyers, academics, and business persons in addition to archival research in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and Washington, DC (2010-20).

PROLOGUE: The U.S. and Them

Populism and the moment of truth in 2016

Ecosystems of the future

Monolithic vs. Multipolar (G-0) World 
INTRO: The U.S. Plays the Old Game

What is missing in Geopolitics since the GFC
Where we are in the 4th Industrial Revolution
Containment logic is outdated

Geoeconomics is no longer only a toolkit
HISTORY: Different Paths Taken

Geopolitical shifts – always the U.S. option

Learning by doing – Japan and Germany in the Plaza Accord

On its own terms – South Korea and China post-WTO accession

Learning to play the game – Japan steps up to the plate
ARGUMENT: Predict Policy Moves by Institutional Variance
Political Systems

Bureaucratic Autonomy

Dominant Players

Policy Preferences
RESPONSES: Different Degrees in Retaliatory Measures

China: “Strike back just as hard.”
-Political System: Authoritarian
-Bureaucratic Autonomy: None, only empowered 
-Dominant Players: The Party and the CFEAC 
-Policy Preferences: Escalation & Desperate resistance
South Korea: “Prove ’em wrong.”
-Political System: Presidential (formerly dictatorial)
-Bureaucratic Autonomy: Some but subservient
-Dominant Players: The V.I.P. and presidential aides 
-Policy Preferences: Rebuttal & Refutational defense
Japan: “Settle than file.”
-Political System: Parliamentarian
-Bureaucratic Autonomy: High as a technocracy
-Dominant Players: The technocrats of MOF & METI
-Policy Preferences: Acquiescence & Selective adjudication
STAKES: Inside Today's Trade Wars
Tariff Wars – Trade Remedy and WTO Disputes 

Currency Wars – Beggar-Thy-Neighbor policies and digital currencies

Tech Wars – 5G, AI, and the 4th Industrial Revolution

Energy Wars – From fossil fuel to renewables

Cyber Wars – The new military warfare
RELEVANCE: The 'So What?' Question

Recognizing the New Normal

Utilizing the Policy Move Predictor

Setting up Strategies for the Future

EPILOGUE: What Will Keep Us Up At Night

Trade wars and currency conflict in everyday life

Geopolitical clashes - US, Russia, and China 

Geoeconomic Territories - BRI vs. everything else

Book Project Programs, Workshops and Meetings in the course of the writing process:

  • National Library of Korea Research Information Service, Book Manuscript Publication Program (July 25, 2019-January 25, 2019)
  • Harvard IGLP Scholars Workshop, Book Prospectus review with faculty advisers (Bangkok: January 6-10, 2019)
  • APSA Annual Meeting and Convention, Book Exhibition and Meetings with Editors (Boston: August 30-September 2, 2018)
  • Presentation of Chapter 1, International Relations and East Asia (IREA) Online Colloquium via Google Hangouts (February 6, 2018)
  • 2017 Wesleyan Conference on East Asia (Spring 2017)
  • APSA Annual Meeting and Convention, Book Exhibition and Meetings with Editors (Philadelphia: September 1-4, 2016; San Francisco: September 1-3, 2017)
  • International Publishing Workshop, Asia Pacific Early Career Researchers Program, ISA Asia-Pacific Conference (June 24, 2016)