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Borders, boundaries and connection, the political economy of transborder cooperation in northeast Asia

by Jiang, Hong-kuan

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation examines the complexity of transborder cooperation on Northeast Asian continent in the post-Cold War era. The end of the Cold War has brought profound changes in Northeast Asia, a subregion long known for its fragmentation and divisions. Many parts of the national borders, once heavily armed with military forces ad arsenal, have been opened up for trade and economic cooperation. Transborder economic activities at the micro level are forging new or revitalized old ties between local economic centres. Crossculturd connections between ethnic groups and local comrnunities are growing and in nirnchallenge national political boundaries. What is equally striking,the political legacy of the Cold War still acts in one way or another as a major barrier blocking comprehensive rnultilaterai economic cooperation among Northeast Asian States. Those central features of the existing political-strategic landscape are changing slowly. Confidence-building in this area remains far more difficuIt than the rest of the region. New tensions derived fiom economic cornpetition and cooperation, and uncertainties inherent in national political regime transition in Russia, China and North Korea al1 loom large in the future of Northeast Asia. A fundamental question is thus raised: To what extent can the emerging transborder connections at the micro level change the long-standing strategic landscape in Norîheast Asia? This snidy approaches this question by proposing the concept of transborder growth zones to explore the conditions and limitations of the micro-level interactions between localities and firms of different states. The Northeast Asian continent had been the focal point of international rivalries for more than a century which left deep antagonisms between states and nations. Coupled with the lack of an access to international capital, technology, and commodity markets, cooperation on Northeast Asian continent indicates not only an economic partnership driven by mutual needs, but also political contests for power among former political rivals which are in the process of redenning their subregional roles and goals. This suggests that the redistribution of econofic cooperation is highiy sensitive and poses conditions to limit its development. Northeast Asian continental cooperation is also cornplicated by the combineci effect of a fast-growing China, a politidy and economicalIy chaotic Russia, and an isolated and almost bankmpt North Korea. This study of the border trade between the Chinese Dongbei and the Russian Far East, and the Tumen River cooperation project launched and coordinated by the UMIP finds that local cross-border connections, have limited effects on the remval of durable political barriers and confidence-building between or among states. The difficult position of each state in internationalizing its local economy in the border area on this part of the continent, however, has increased the appeal of joint efforts to atcract foreign investment and thus implies a sustainable cooperative trend. Yet, the prospects for cooperation among economic competitors and power contenders do not solely rely upon economic gains of cooperation but also upon the political will of participant states.
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1997

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