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Why do the export economies of Asia – China, Korea and Japan – respond differently to U.S. protectionism?

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 East Asian states responses 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 manuscript is enriched by a 2019-2020 Next Generation Researchers Grant of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2019S1A5B5A07106479). It 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). It is currently under review at a reputable university press.

Chapter 0.

PREFACE: The U.S. and Them

Populism and the moment of truth in 2016

Ecosystems of the future

Monolithic vs. Multipolar (G-0) World
Chapter 1.
INTRO: The U.S. Plays the Old Game

Dealing with the Elephant in the Room

The Puzzle: Why do they respond differently?

Policy Relevance

Argument: Institutional Variance in Trade Policymaking

Research Design, Data and Methodology

Contributions and avenues for further research 

Outline of the Book
Chapter 2.
HISTORY: How the Old, the New, and the Final Target came to Respond

U.S. Pressures 2.0: Geopolitics mixed with Geoeconomics

The Old Target Responds: Japan

The New Target Responds: South Korea 

The Final Target Responds: China 

Playing the Game of Geopolitics with Geoeconomics
Chapter 3.
ARGUMENT: Predict Policy Moves by Institutional Variance

Theorizing Institutional Variance in Trade Policymaking and Responses

Limitations of Existing Explanations on Bureaucratic Decisionmaking

The Framework of Institutional Variance in Responses

-Political Systems

-Bureaucratic Autonomy

-Dominant Players

-Policy Preferences

The Key to Utilizing Institutional Variance for Policy Prediction
Chapter 4.
RESPONSES: Varying Degrees in Retaliatory Measures

China: “Strike back 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

-Bureaucratic Autonomy: Some but subservient

-Dominant Players: The V.I.P. and presidential aides

-Policy Preferences: Rebuttal & Defensive Refutation

Japan: “Settle than file.”

-Political System: Parliamentarian

-Bureaucratic Autonomy: High as a technocracy

-Dominant Players: The Technocrats of MOF & METI supported by the PM

-Policy Preferences: Acquiescence & Selective adjudication
Chapter 5.
CASES: Trade Wars & Currency Conflicts in Action

Trade Remedies: Antidumping, Countervailing and Safeguard Duty Levies

China: CCP and the CFEAC

South Korea: KTC beholden to MOTIE, subservient to the V.I.P.

Japan: Delegation to the private sector and outliers

WTO Disputes: Consultations, Panel Reports, Appellate Body Rulings and Implementation

China: CCP wielding power via MOC

South Korea: The V.I.P. Veto Power vis-à-vis MOTIE

Japan: MOF and METI and the challenges for change

Currency Appreciation Pressures: U.S. Treasury Designations, Pressures and Central Bank Independence

China: The PBOC in line with CFEAC guidelines

South Korea: MOSF vs. BOK responses

Japan: MOF vs. BOJ responses
Chapter 6.
STAKES: Inside Today’s Trade Wars

Tariffs – Trade remedy and WTO disputes

Currencies – Beggar-thy-neighbor policies and digital currencies

Tech – Data, Chips, 5G and AI

Energy – From fossil fuel, nuclear to renewables

Cyber – The new warfare on the Internet
Chapter 7.
TAKEAWAYS: The ‘So What?’ Question

Recognizing the New Normal of U.S. Pressures

Utilizing Institutional Variance as the Policy Move Predictor
Strategies for the Future based on Anticipated Responses
Chapter 8.
CONCLUSION: It’s Who Decides What That Matters

Focusing on Dominant Players in Trade wars and Currency Conflict

Geopolitical Clashes by Strongmen 

Geoeconomic Territories – BRI Initiative by China vs. the EPN by the U.S. 

Future Research - Moving the Stage to Europe for the Rivalry of Pressures

(Institutional Variance in European responses - Germany, France, and the UK - to Faustian Bargains with China and U.S. Pressures since Brexit)

Current Schedule for the Manuscript

  • July 2019-October 2021: Research Information Service of the National Library of Korea (RINK), Academic Book Publication Program (July 25, 2019-July 25, 2020). The manuscript preparation period at RINK was extended to April 21, 2021 due intermittent closures of the National Library of Korea in the COVID-19 pandemic, then extended for an additional 6 months to October 21, 2021.
  • March 2021: First expedited peer review completed.
  • August 2021: Second expedited peer review expected.
  • December 2022: Final publication date required by the National Research Foundation of Korea.

Past Book Project Programs, Workshops and Meetings

  • 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)