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APAPAsia Pacific Agenda Project

First Forum: Tokyo, Japan
November 20-21, 1995

Asia Pacific Policy Networks
Background Paper

Charles E. Morrison
Senior Fellow
East-West Center, Honolulu
Senior Research Associate
Japan Center for International Exchange

Paul Evans
Joint Center for Asia Pacific Studies
University of Toronto-York University

"Networks" and "networking" have become popular terms of our time. As corporate organization has moved away from large, integrated structures, networking ("strategic alliances") is seen as an essential tool for carrying out flexible and efficient business operations. Nongovernmental organizations value networking as a means of developing allies and maximizing their influence on policy. Within the academic community, networking is more suspect as an activity because time spent in building institutional and individual links is often regarded as time wasted in terms of substantive accomplishment. Nevertheless, despite the traditional ideal of social science scholarship as an individual activity typically carried out in a library, much of today's social science research efforts are collaborative activities carried out by institutionalized networks of some sort. While there are trade-offs between networking and individually based research and writing, networks play essential roles in connecting researchers with one another and in linking them with their audiences.

Networks are formed to serve many different purposes. Ad hoc networks are developed to carry out particular projects. Long-term networks are established to facilitate interaction among professionals in a field (professional association), to maintain contacts among those trained at a particular institution or institutions (alumni association), to pool resources for fund-raising purposes, or to influence policy. This brief survey focuses on a particular set of networks—broad, long-term, multinational networks in the Asia Pacific region established to influence economic or politico-security relations in the region. We mention ad hoc networks only in passing, and we have not surveyed networks relating to more specific issue areas except insofar as they are subsets of broader multilateral policy networks.

Thirty years ago, there were essentially no such networks. Their establishment and growth is a phenomenon associated with the growing perception of East Asia and the Pacific as a region and of the emerging civil society in this region. [1] A number of factors lie behind this growth:

Economic Networks

The First Networks: PAFTAD and PBEC

The first Asia Pacific networks were professional associations, established before World War II. The Pacific Science Association, still functioning, and the Institute of Pacific Relations are examples. In their earlier years, membership was drawn far more from Western scholars in the region than from Asian scholars. Regional policy networks seem to have dated from the late 1960s, with the 1968 establishment of the Pacific Trade and Development Conference (PAFTAD) meetings of academic economists. The Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC), a business grouping, dates from the same era. In the case of both of these networks, the original leadership came almost exclusively from the developed countries, especially the United States, Japan, and Australia. Over time, both organizations expanded, the PBEC even reaching into Latin America, and members from the developing or former developing Asian countries became central actors.

The group of policy-oriented economists associated with PAFTAD has been particularly important as the progenitor of ideas that ultimately led to the creation of the quasi-official PECC and the intergovernmental APEC process. PAFTAD economists, such as Kiyoshi Kojima in the 1960s and Hugh Patrick and Peter Drysdale in the 1970s, were the first advocates of regional economic cooperation and integration schemes. PAFTAD appears to have remained remarkably unchanged over its three decades of existence, with a small core group of members and additional participants depending upon them at annual meetings. A small secretariat is based in Australia. In 1995, PAFTAD examined issues relating to trade, the environment, and development, and in 1996 it looked at competition policy.

Although an academic network, PAFTAD has had a tremendous influence on the policy process. Many of those economists who have been involved with the track two and intergovernmental regional integration processes as advisors and occasionally as government officials met and consolidated their ties through PAFTAD. Sir John Crawford and Okita Saburo, the initiators of the 1980 Canberra meeting at which PECC originated, were deeply involved in PAFTAD in subsequent years.

Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC)

PECC, established in 1980 and currently having member committees in twenty-two Asia Pacific economies, is the largest umbrella for Asia Pacific economic policy networks. PECC had its origins in an Australian-Japanese effort to explore the creation of an intergovernmental institution; when that proved premature, PECC emerged as a substitute involving academics, business people, and government officials acting in their private capacity. [4] Over the years, the council has created numerous fora and working groups, usually associated with one or more educational institutions in the region. Among the more active of these are PECC's Pacific Economic Outlook project, the Trade Policy Forum, the Minerals and Energy Forum, and the Food and Agriculture Forum. Other task forces and working groups address issues related to financial and capital markets, human resources, small and medium-sized enterprises, science and technology, fisheries, telecommunications, transportation, tourism, and Pacific Island economic issues. There are currently more than twenty projects under the PECC label. The governing body of PECC is a standing committee with members from each of the twenty-two economies. There is a coordinating committee to oversee the research activities, and a small secretariat is housed in Singapore.

The annual Pacific Economic Outlook, coordinated by Laurence B. Krause of the University of California, San Diego, and funded by the Asia Foundation and Arthur Anderson and Company, has been the flagship publication of PECC. [5] Excerpts from this report, other reports, and materials developed for PECC's plenary and working group meetings are collected in an annual Pacific Economic Development Report. [6]

Because of the attention given to the trade and investment liberalization and facilitation agenda in APEC and because of APEC's willingness in 1995 to contract work in this area to PECC's Trade Policy Forum (TPF), it seems likely that the TPF will emerge as PECC's major subnetwork. This committee, whose Australian and Indonesian components have played leading roles, was responsible for initial work on a regional investment code and produced in 1995 two major reports for APEC, one reviewing trade impediments and the other mapping trade and investment liberalization efforts. As a part of upgrading the TPF, the committee's members agreed to establish PECC member-economy business advisory subcommittees as part of the TPF structure, and the TPF held a major conference in the Republic of Korea in September 1996 (the off-year for PECC plenaries, recently placed on a two-year cycle). Current constraints, however, include the lack of any permanent position associated with the forum and the heavy workload in their own institutions by the individuals mainly involved. While the TPF will have its own agenda of trade activities, it hopes to continue to provide input into APEC.

APEC Process

APEC itself can be regarded as a set of networking activities, principally providing a vehicle for exchange among government leaders and officials from the member economies. In addition to intergovernmental exchanges, however, APEC has stimulated the creation of several mixed public-private economic network groups that meet on a more or less regular basis to provide policy or technical guidance to government decision makers. These APEC-related institutions include:

Political Security Networks

Early Networking

Regionwide networks in the politico-security field trailed those established in economics. Among the earlier networks were groups loosely associated around an institution or a conference series. The Asian Dialogue, established in the late 1970s by the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) and the Japan-based East-West Seminar with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies as a partner, focused on the Japan-ASEAN relationship and included economic as well as security dimensions. However, its meetings always included representatives from the United States and South Korea and sometimes from other nations in the region such as the People's Republic of China. Other institutions with strong interests in regionwide security issues included the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (Jakarta), which established a series of bilateral dialogues with countries with which Indonesia had important relations as well as broader Southeast Asian conferences.

Despite the slower pace of establishing a PECC-like network in the security field, ad hoc research projects and one or two regularly scheduled large-scale security meetings provided venues through which Asia Pacific security specialists frequently met. One of these was the National Defense University Pacific Symposia that began in 1979, alternating between Washington, D.C., and Honolulu. This was joined by the Asia Pacific Roundtable in the late 1980s. The roundtable was originally modeled after the PAFTAD group and was designed as a venue for political scientists and security specialists to meet and discuss major regional trends and development. Unlike PAFTAD, the roundtable, however, became a large meeting based at one institution, the Institute of Strategic and International Studies of Malaysia, which took on most of the responsibilities for roundtable planning and the entire organizational effort.

Security Networks in the 1990s [9]

In the context of rapid economic change and geopolitical uncertainty after the cold war, the 1990s became an "era of dialogue" in Asia Pacific security matters. These dialogues, whether at the intergovernmental or track two level, have not yet produced a new regional security framework, but they have helped to lessen tensions and establish a foundation for more intensified exchange and increasingly ambitious security projects.

The level of activity is substantial. There are roughly two multilateral meetings a week somewhere around the Pacific. An Australian-produced calendar of upcoming events and the Canadian-produced Dialogue Monitor give an indication of the breadth, volume, and direction of the dialogue process. Virtually every significant institute has sponsored or participated in a range of bilateral and multilateral conferences and workshops. To have a network or at least regular partners is a sine qua non for major institution status. This has long been the case with leading U.S. institutions, but it is now true for other institutions around the Pacific.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the 1990s has been the creation of track two multilateral processes with the explicit intention of connecting academic research and policy-making. Track two processes have a significant influence on the ways in which academics and government agencies interact. To prepare both governments and academics for international activity, enhanced collaboration within countries is needed. Such collaboration generates new clusters of expertise across countries and new institutional arrangements such as research consortia, national committees, and institutionalized meeting processes.

The most important network in the security field has been the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific (CSCAP), established by nine founding institutions in 1993. Like PECC, the CSCAP has national committees, a steering group, and several working groups. But the more ambitious track two processes like the CSCAP have not yet reached their full potential and have certainly not eclipsed the many other regional ad hoc networks. The CSCAP faces major challenges in resolving a China-Taiwan membership issue and, more broadly, of finding the right balance between government-directed and more independent research.

The distinction between nongovernmental and semigovernmental processes deserves further attention. It not only points to the vastly different conceptions of "research" that exist around the region; it also raises important points about control and agenda setting.

This is a creative period in broadening the conception of security and developing approaches and conceptualizations of security that reflect Asia Pacific and especially Asian perspectives. While a great deal of research and discussion is still conducted on great power relations, the changing balance of power, arms balances and transfers, military capacity and intent, security frameworks, specific territorial disputes, and so forth, literature examining "unconventional" security issues, including environmental degradation, migration, and conflict over natural resources, is developing quickly. A distinctive feature of several collaborative programs now under way is an explicit effort to identify national and regional factors that shape the security policies and interactions of states. This represents a conscious effort to examine the possibility of a regionally grounded theory that takes seriously the idea that theory creation is specific to both time and place.

Another set of innovations stems from the geographical definition of security networks. Although "Asia Pacific" as a region was originally defined mainly in terms of economic interdependence, this geographic framework has also proven to be creative and dynamic in producing ideas and networks in the security field. Recently, however, it has become evident that two new axes of research and exchange are developing in impressive ways. One is the connection between Eastern Asia and South Asia, and the second is between Europe and Asia. It remains to be seen whether the major actors in these new axes will try to connect them to the existing Asia Pacific networks or establish them on a self-standing basis. Crucial to this will be the willingness of those involved in Asia Pacific processes to include more participants (so far the record is encouraging) and what strategic assessments the new actors make regarding the future regional role of the United States.


Our survey of regional economic and politico-security networks raises several important issues to which we now turn. We discuss these issues under the headings of leadership, roles and substance, geographical coverage, communications, and sustainability.


Networks do not arise spontaneously; some individual or institution needs to create and maintain them. Leadership—conceptual and organizational—is critical to the networks' creation, survival, and effectiveness.

Our survey suggests that the current leadership functions in the Asia Pacific region are quite highly diversified by country, but with two very important gaps: Japan and China. Japan is an essential actor in virtually all networks and now provides a substantial part of the funding for most of them. It has also played a major role in the establishment of some regional institutions, including PAFTAD, the PBEC, PECC, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. However, in most Asia Pacific networks Japanese do not play a leading intellectual role. There are three reasons for this. First, Japan's human resources base in English-language-based international policy analysis is quite limited and highly stretched relative to the size of Japan's economy and the importance of the country to the region (and of the region to Japan). Second, Japan has relatively few independent centers of policy analysis. Where individuals are capable of providing regional leadership, they often are not closely connected with an appropriate institutional support base that would allow them to become more effective. Third, there is a tendency for Japanese participation in the networks to focus on defending Japanese positions or interests rather than on network development.

All these problems apply in even more extreme to China. China is a relatively new member in many regional networks and is still feeling its way in this area. There is also a fear among Chinese that Asia Pacific networks have or will become venues for "China bashing." Recently, the Taiwan issue has become an almost constant preoccupation that diverts the time and energy of Chinese and Taiwanese participants in some networks, leads to impatience with China from other delegations, and presents delicate political problems at home for Chinese network participants. Such problems have prevented China from joining the CSCAP, as noted, and weakens its participation in other networks. Yet the large number of English-trained Chinese students now emerging from Western graduate schools, the growing experience of Chinese institutions in multinational fora, and the economic wherewithal and growth of China all suggest that China is much more likely to be active as a leader and agenda setter in Asia Pacific networks of the future.

The level of commitment to participating in regional networks remains a complex political issue in several countries, but research institutions have generally shown an overwhelming interest in being involved. Their capacity to do so varies greatly, however. This includes access to information and communications technology, language skills, financial wherewithal, and the ability to train and retain skilled analysts.

Roles and Substance

To attract participation and funding, networks need to have a clear purpose. PECC, for example, was established to foster Asia Pacific economic cooperation and organization, and the CSCAP was intended to provide regular linkages among regional security specialists and to focus their ideas toward critical issues in an era of uncertainty and opportunity following the end of the cold war. The essential task of focusing on a role or purpose, however, may decrease the networks' effectiveness in addressing new needs or dealing with issues at the periphery of their vision.

For example, the economic networks reviewed here have generally neglected noneconomic issues. Nor so far have the multilateral security networks been that effective in bringing in "unconventional" security issues. To the extent that this nexus has been studied, it has generally been through ad hoc efforts. Similarly, although cultural issues are of undoubted relevance in addressing issues of both economic and politico-security cooperation, the established networks also generally find it difficult to focus on these issues.

Within the multilateral networks, there is a tendency toward conference-driven research written on the basis of demand. In part, this reflects the ferocious level of requests for material to feed into the track two processes. Reacting to this tendency, projects focusing on more basic academic research for less directly policy-relevant questions have operated separately from the established track two networks.

Geographical Coverage

Most networks are not open-ended but have some requirements for membership related to their roles and purposes. The membership of networks is rarely fixed. Asia Pacific networks have witnessed two kinds of expansion: (1) geographical expansion to institutions or individuals in countries that were not originally part of the network and (2) national expansion to new institutions or individuals within countries already represented. These might be better termed "outreach" to new countries and "inreach" within nations.

Asia Pacific networks have generally proved quite flexible in expanding to new countries as political or cultural barriers have fallen. Although most networks discussed here originated within the cold war American orbit of influence, they have expanded to China, and more recently Vietnam, as individuals and institutions within these countries recognized their common interests in the networks and were encouraged to join. As noted above, however, the China-Taiwan representational question has delayed the entry of mainland and Taiwanese organizations into security networks, most notably the CSCAP.

Somewhat more difficult has been the expansion of Asia Pacific networks across cultural barriers. Russia presented both political and cultural issues. In the Soviet period, Russia was unrepresented or represented only marginally in most Asia Pacific networks. Post-Soviet Russia is politically more acceptable, but for much of the region it remains European rather than part of Asia. While the Russian Far East is more acceptable as a part of Asia Pacific, the separate inclusion of part of a country would present an internal geographical hurdle not applied to other continental countries such as Canada and the United States, and the Russian Far East human resources base is too thin for Russia to be substantially involved in Asia Pacific networks, as befitting its size.

The western coast of Latin America also has experienced historical and cultural barriers to full admission to Asia Pacific networks, although increasingly Mexico and Chile are seen in North America and Asia as natural parts of Asia Pacific. This is because economic policy changes in these countries have made them more compatible with prevailing norms of economic pragmatism and openness in the rest of the region, because their interest in the region is growing, and because the United States has played an important role in brokering Latin admission to Asia Pacific networks as Latin-North American ties have warmed. [10]

In contrast to Latin America, despite similar growing economic pragmatism and interest in Asia Pacific institutions, South Asia remains outside virtually all the major multinational networks we have reviewed. We do have the sense, however, that South Asia is increasingly represented in ad hoc networks. The barriers again appear to be in part cultural, compounded by a fear of introducing fractious South Asian politics into the Asia Pacific networks and caution about adding too many countries to already very broad and diverse networks.

The inreach problem is in some ways at least as difficult as dealing with the pressures for geographical expansion of Asia Pacific networks. Many Asia Pacific networks, including PECC and the CSCAP, emphasize working with a range of countries. At the same time, the institutions in those countries are often headed by elites in capitals or the associates and friends of the network organizers. Aside from their difficulty in providing truly national coverage in geographical terms, the mainstream Asia Pacific networks, whether in the advanced or developing countries, have not been very effective in bringing in non-mainstream elements.

Some limitations on inreach are, of course, understandable. It makes no sense to extend networks to those not committed to the basic purposes of the network. On the other hand, most of those in the Asia Pacific networks would agree that it is desirable to strengthen their national representation, if this can be done in some way that does not so broaden or distort the network that it loses its ability to function effectively. Moreover, many networks seek to strengthen broader national appreciation of the activities they are engaged in through outreach and education.

Aside from the expansion to institutions outside the capitals or main centers, several other approaches are possible:


The problems of both outreach and inreach, of course, relate very closely to the issue of communications. Networks in fact are basically vehicles for communication, and their effectiveness and utility have much to do with their quality in performing this function. Some networks, for financial or idiosyncratic reasons, have relatively fitful communications, even within the steering group. The most successful networks, however, maintain close links among the core members and regular communication with groups outside the network.

Two important elements of communication are the ability to understand each other's ideas (often but not necessarily requiring common language, training, and shared experiences) and the technological ease of transmitting information. These are not unrelated in that technologically increasing the flow and facilitating the availability of shared information helps produce a broader common understanding of the issues and how they might be addressed. Electronic communications systems provide a revolutionary technology that can substantially augment the flow within the networks, hasten internal learning functions, and increase networks' ability to relate to the outside. In the Asia Pacific region and elsewhere, the Internet has become a primary tool for network communications. However, despite some outstanding examples of effective use of electronic networking (such as the database on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea maintained by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development), many opportunities for enhancing network effectiveness through electronic media remain to be exploited.


Sustainability has several dimensions, some of which we have already touched upon. It should not be presumed that every network should be sustained; indeed, networks should be obliged from time to time to reaffirm their relevance and value. However, a successful, established network requires recognition, a mode of operation, a comfort among the network members, and patterns of communication within the network and to outside audiences that cannot easily be rebuilt. But even successful networks may atrophy or die because of a variety of vulnerabilities that make network maintenance a very difficult challenge. The following can be identified as key vulnerabilities:

In contrast to institutions, networks very rarely have endowment funding. Therefore, networks tend to become either closely identified with the particular sponsoring institutions that have a stake in and ability to support them (such as the Asia Pacific Roundtable) or government funded (such as elements of PECC). Neither of these is necessarily fatal when the organization is an effective sponsor or the government gives the funds without strings, but such relationships can be a flaw, forcing the network into reliance on an institution or government that constrains the full scope of ideas flowing through the network.

Funding for Asia Pacific networks has come from a variety of governmental and foundation sources. Genuinely collaborative programs are expensive and will demand consortium-type financing as seen in ideas about the creation of a new journal on Asia Pacific security, a major Social Science Research Council proposal on research capacity building, an enhanced Trade Policy Forum, and a new regional center on arms production and arms transfer. The number of funders interested in Asia Pacific issues has not expanded as quickly as the number of interesting projects. Leading foundations in Japan are facing declining revenue owing to reduced interest rates, while several of the mainstays of regional processes in the United States (the Asia Foundation, the East-West Center, and the U.S. Institute of Peace) have relied heavily on Congressional funding, which has shrunken precipitously. Moreover, some of the leading private U.S. foundations are restructuring their programs with important implications for the Asia Pacific region. In combination, these developments raise significant uncertainties about how important project ideas will be funded in the future.

One possibility is that governments will expand their direct communications to the regional process. The establishment of a U.S. Department of Defense institution in Hawaii, the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, is one example. The Canadian International Development Agency is also moving in this direction. A number of countries (New Zealand, Chile, and Canada, for example) have established foundations to support the involvement of their institutions in Asia Pacific economic networks. These developments have significant implications for independent academic and policy-oriented research in the Pacific Basin.


  1. See Tadashi Yamamoto, ed., Emerging Civil Society in the Asia Pacific Community (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1995). [back]
  2. It is a testimony to this trend, for example, that PECC is represented in APEC meetings.[back]
  3. It is a limitation of international networks that they require a common language; since English is the international language of Asia Pacific networks this obviously privileges native English speakers. [back]
  4. For much of its history, PECC provided an alternative to a formal intergovernmental organization. Today, PECC provides an alternative track for discussion of issues similar to those taken up by the APEC governments. PECC provides a somewhat freer forum for discussion of these issues. It also identifies new issues and places them on the agenda more rapidly than an official agency is likely to be able to do, and serves as a half-way station to APEC for economies where interest in regional economic association exists but not yet sufficiently to impress the APEC members. Countries with PECC committees but not in APEC include Colombia, Peru, Russia, and Vietnam, all potential APEC members. [back]
  5. The Pacific Economic Outlook provides an annual short-term forecast. Less well known is the related structural issues project that has been coordinated by the Japan Committee for the Pacific Economic Outlook under the direction of Akira Kosaka of Osaka University. [back]
  6. See Mark Borthwick, ed., Pacific Economic Development Report 1995: Advancing Regional Integration (Singapore: PECC, 1994). [back]
  7. Each APEC member economy except Papua New Guinea is represented in the Eminent Persons Group. [back]
  8. Because of the small amounts of money available for individual projects and a tendency to divide the available funding among the involved institutions, the projects associated with the HRD working group tend to be quite limited in size and duration. Many projects seem associated with one or two key individuals or institutions, while the others play secondary roles by contributing information and a national research input. Genuinely multinational projects appear extremely difficult to organize. There have been recent efforts in this working group, partly pushed by budget constraints, to encourage related activities to coalesce and encourage cooperation across the networks. Both NEDM and HURDIT, for example, have projects relating to labor markets, and these two networks as well as BMN have activities relating to small- and medium-sized enterprises and the environment. [back]
  9. The following section draws heavily on the results of a December 1993 conference in Bali of about sixty directors of research institutions and foundation officials from around the region. See the conference volume, Paul M. Evans, ed., Studying Asia Pacific Security: The Future of Research, Training and Dialogue Activities (Toronto: University of Toronto-York University Joint Centre for Asia Pacific Studies, 1994). [back]
  10. For a recent survey of such factors, see Abraham F. Lowenthal, "Is Latin America a Good Bet?" in The Nikkei Weekly, October 30, 1995, p. 11. These remarks were made at a presentation at the Hotel Okura on September 7, 1995. [back]