Regional Connectivity Building in Southeast Asia

April 5, 2022 @ 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Canada-ASEAN Initiatives at YCAR

This panel brings together three eminent commentators offering a Southeast Asian perspective on regional connectivity, smaller state external policy and elite legitimation. It highlights why the region matters in relation to Chinese foreign policy and Asian security. It also touches on the geopolitics of Southeast Asia’s quest for infrastructure and investment, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, economic, political and security implications of regional connectivity and engagement with partners outside ASEAN.

Cheng-Chwee Kuik (National University of Malaysia) will address the geopolitics of regional connectivity building in Southeast Asia. He will cover: why connectivity cooperation is not only about big-power pushes, but also small-state pulls; how the connectivity-building process is reflective of the features of the “multiplex world”; and to what extent host-country agency is a function of internal resilience and external alternatives.

Lynette Ong (University of Toronto) will provide a political economy analysis of infrastructure development in authoritarian contexts, with a focus on how elite contestation and mass resentment surrounding China-backed projects played out in Malaysia’s historic 2018 election.

Amitav Acharya (American University, formerly of York University) will draw on his long-standing work on regionalism in Southeast Asia. He will discuss the political and security implications of regional connectivity projects with particular focus on their impact on ASEAN.

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The webinar is part of YCAR’s Canada, ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific Series, and will be moderated by Julia Bentley, York Centre for Asian Research. For more information:

This event is co-presented by the Canada-ASEAN Initiatives, York Centre for Asian Research, York University, the Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto, and the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, University of Victoria.


Cheng-Chwee Kuik is head of the Centre for Asian Studies at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) at the National University of Malaysia (UKM). He is also a non-resident fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Professor Kuik has held consultant positions with Oxford, the Council of Foreign Relations, Asian Development Bank and the Malaysian government. His most recent book is Rivers of Iron: Railroads and Chinese Power in Southeast Asia (2020), co-authored with David M. Lampton and Selina Ho. He is also co-editor, with Alice Ba and Sueo Sudo, of Institutionalizing East Asia (2016). His publications on small-state hedging, Southeast Asian international relations and Asian security have appeared in peer-reviewed journals and edited books. He was guest editor of a special issue of Asian Perspective in spring 2021, “Southeast Asian Responses to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

Lynette H. Ong teaches at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Her research sits at the intersection of authoritarianism, contentious politics ,and the political economy of development. She is an expert on China and Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia. She has held visiting fellowships at Harvard University, Peking and Fudan Universities in China. She frequently provides policy advice to the Canadian and other governments on engagement with China. Professor Ong is the author of Outsourcing Repression: Everyday State Power in Contemporary China (forthcoming, 2022) and The Street and the Ballot Box: Interactions between Social Movements and Electoral Politics in Authoritarian Contexts (forthcoming, 2022). Her publications have appeared in Perspectives on Politics, Journal of Comparative Politics, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Foreign Affairs. She is also the author of Prosper or Perish: Credit and Fiscal Systems in Rural China (2012).

Amitav Acharya is Distinguished Professor of International Relations at American University in Washington DC, and holds the UNESCO Chair of Transnational Challenges and Governance. His work on global international relations theory highlights concepts of world order from the non-Western world to counterbalance the dominating influence of European history. Professor Acharya’s work has been influential in shaping policy on Asian regionalism and human security. Prof. Acharya’s recent books include The Making of Global International Relations (2019); Constructing Global Order (2018), and The End of American World Order, 2nd edition (2018). His expertise on regional security, ASEAN and Southeast Asia is reflected in publications such as The Quest for Identity: International Relations of Southeast Asia (2000), Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia; ASEAN and the Problem of Regional Order (2001) and East of India, South of China: Sino-Indian Encounters in Southeast Asia (2017).


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