Governance in Asia Conference
(12-14 March 2002)
The Growth and Governance in Asia
conference was held, 12-14 March 2002, at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort Hotel
to advance theoretically informed discussions on growth and governance in the
contemporary Asian contexts from societal, political, and economic points of
views, and to address possible paths for improved governance. The first of the
four panels identified important security issues originating from or
exacerbated by weakness in state governing capacity. The second panel evaluated
the relative impact of globalization on domestic political economies of the
Asian countries. The third panel reviewed possible links between globalization
and the Asian states’ capacity to manage their diverse societies. The fourth
panel identified unique challenges of democratization by country. Finally, the
concluding roundtable attempted to tie globalization, economic governance,
social governance, and political governance together in a coherent analytical
In the Challenges in Governance
in Asia Panel, participants tackled the concept of good governance from
economic, political, and administrative points of views.
- Panelists emphasized different aspects of what might
constitute good governance. Some panelists emphasized the outcome-based
measurements, such as administrative effectiveness, efficiency, equity,
and strategic vision. Others pointed to the procedural aspects, such as
participatory democracy, rule of law, accountability, transparency,
responsiveness, and consensus building. A broader output measurement in
terms of human development, rather than traditionally used economic
indicators alone, was also suggested to bridge the procedural and
output-based assessment. Those panelists who emphasized the output
measurements over the procedural measurements pointed out the fragmented
civil society outside Northeast Asia as hindrance to good governance.
- In terms of their assessment of Northeast Asian
countries, panelists agreed that good governance prevailed at both
domestic and international levels.
- In Southeast Asia, mixture of optimism and pessimism
prevailed among the panelists. Panelists agreed that states continue to be
the principal actors in economic governance, and that they need to
transform themselves to cope with the challenges of globalization. There
was a clear consensus that corruption has no part in good governance, and
that participatory democracy would reduce the overall level of corruption.
- Both utilities and limits of U.S. foreign policy in
promoting good governance in Asia were discussed, with cautiously positive
assessments on promotion of economic transparency and somewhat more
reserved assessments on promotion of social and political governance.
The Globalization and Economic
Governance in Asia Panel addressed capital flows, regionally skewed short- and
mid-term effects of globalization, and governing capacity of the states.
- Southeast Asia as a destination of foreign direct
investments has faced increasing challenge from China. No coordination of
FDI policies has taken place between the ASEAN countries and China, and
competition toward accelerated overall economic deregulation is taking
place. The reduced relative importance of Japanese investments also contributes
to this trend.
- States continue to positively engage in economic
globalization, while avoiding the negative impacts. Industrial policy
aimed at technological upgrading and labor policy to cope with economic
dislocations were some of such examples offered by the participants.
However, due to the diverse human and natural resource allocations,
infrastructure development, and political systems in Asia, there was a
broad agreement among the panelists that there was no single formula to
deal with economic globalization.
- The role of enhanced citizen participation was viewed
with mixed eyes: some positively foresaw emergence of the “Third Way”
governance, whereas others warned of populist fiscal blowouts and
- A pessimism was also voiced by a participant
referring to the skewed benefits of globalization, favoring the developed
countries first, large newly industrialized countries (NICs) second,
before passing any benefit over to the least developed countries.
The Globalization and Political
Community in Asia Panel addressed the possible link between globalization and
management of diversity.
- Panelists agreed that globalization was not the main
factor in success or failure of the management of diversity. Panelists
commonly pointed out that democratic political system supported by strong
civil society as key to management of diversity, but did not reach a firm
conclusion as to which comes first in cases of transitional polity and
society. A view was expressed in regard to the effect of globalization
that its skewed effects closely resembled the pre-existing social inequity
within each society.
- While a positive view was expressed on the overall
growth globalization brought, which enabled inter-ethnic re-distributive
policies, a caution was raised about the new intra-ethnic class division,
in the case of Malaysia. Comparatively, it was pointed out that the most
acute internal security problems in Southeast Asia are present in the
countries with least global exposure, although the case of Bhutan may defy
extending this generalization into South Asia, as pointed out by a
- Degree of politicization and radicalization of Islam
varied from one country to another, as well as the context in which
Islamic groups are placed, although participants commonly identified this
issue to be an important one. A participant echoed the panel discussion by
pointing out the existence of socio-economic grievances behind the
politicized and radical Islamic movements.
In the Growth of Civil Society
and Democratization in Asia Panel, panelists agreed on an abstract definition
of civil society organizations that encompassed their role as an intermediary
between the people and the state and their autonomy from the state. Although
panelists in general recognized positive contribution of civil society
organizations on social stability and economic growth, cautions were offered
from three perspectives.
- First, civil society is often absent or
underdeveloped and fragmented in Asia.
- Second, growth of civil society has proceeded with
the state endorsement in Asia, and therefore its further growth is
contingent upon continued state support. It was pointed out that civil
society organizations have been successful in ousting government leaders,
but failed to sustain coherent governing coalitions afterward.
- Third, not all civil society organizations are
- However, panelists recognized mutually enhancing role
between growth of civil society and democratization, without presuming the
direction of causal relationship. Panelists supported outside
encouragement of civil society growth in Asia, but were skeptical of more
forceful imposition of such norms upon Asian countries, provided their
diverse political, economic, social, and cultural dynamics.
- Good governance entails both procedural and outcome
- Economic globalization poses a new challenge to state
management of national political-economy, but states continue to seek ways
to mitigate the negative impacts.
- Regionalism may also substitute the eroded national
economic sovereignties. On the other hand, it is also recognized that
globalization can also bring about standardized and update economic
practices that help state management of economy.
- Growth of civil society organizations and their
growing transnational networking can provide a more careful scrutiny
against abusive economic globalization that may hurt national economic
growth and/or human development.
- Globalization is a mixed blessing for governance of
diversity, contributing to both strengthening of parochial group
identities and spread of a secular economy-based global consumer culture.
- States more than ever face a challenge of minority
representation, and in a long term, this will be best done within a