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The Practice of Duality: Why the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership are Competing Paradigms in Asia


A cursory look at Asia Pacific regionalism will leave any observer bemused. Why have competing paradigms continually developed in the region? Can such diverse states cooperate? The following paper will answer this question: why do the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) exist as competing paradigms in the Asia Pacific? This raises further questions: What regionalisms exist in the Asia Pacific? What are the goals of regionalization? What states belong to the Asia Pacific? Are there precedents for dualism in the Asia Pacific?

To answer these questions, this paper will be split into three sections. The first will look at global trade liberalization in general and regional trade liberalization in particular. This section will begin with a brief discussion of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the most current round of talks, the Doha Development Round. Through this discussion it will become apparent that global liberalization of trade is not a phenomenon. It is more of a myth than a truism in the contemporary world. Even though the Bali Package was recently signed on December 7, 2013, the WTO and the Doha round of talks are floundering. As these failures have proliferated, regional attempts at liberalizing trade have amplified. This can be seen by the finalization of the European Union (EU), and in particular the growth of organizations in the Asia Pacific. However, in Asia, regionalism has increasingly taken on a dual character. This section will explore two sets of examples where dualism that have occurred in the Asia Pacific. The first is the duality of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC), and the second is the more recent competition of the TPP and RCEP.

The second section will look for a way to explain why and how two separate paradigms are competing for similar ends in the Asia Pacific. To do this I will elaborate on the three major theoretical schools of international relations (realism, liberalism and constructivism), and expose how they are not effective at explaining this phenomenon. Thus, I will look into the political sociology abyss. There is a wealth of information within the sociological discipline and more and more international relations theorists are turning to it for explanation. This paper will use practice theory based on Pierre Bourdieu sociology to explain the development of duality in the Asia Pacific. It suggests that innate knowledge learnt through interactions with others and through practical experience tempers diplomatic practice.

The final section will further this theory by exploring the possibility that there are in fact two habitus’ within the Asia Pacific region: a Pacificist habitus and an Asianist habitus. These have specific operating procedures and doxa which temper particular diplomatic practice. Therefore if a two track diplomatic environment is forming based differing habitus, free trade may be unfounded or diffused.

For the purpose of simplicity this paper will use a very broad definition of the Asia Pacific: the geographic location of the world that encompasses East Asia, South East Asia, and Oceania. However, any use of the term Asia Pacific can be problematic as there is little consensus on defining the region. The lack of consensus on definition should set alarm bells off in any scholar or policymaker’s brain, as it indicates that the reality of an Asia Pacific may not exist.

Before going further it would be useful to explain what this paper is not trying to achieve. Although it seeks to explain why two different trade liberalization mechanisms exist, it will not give the reader an in depth analysis of trade theory. The first section will briefly explain what trade liberalization entails, and also what the TPP and RCEP are, but will not look into the chasm of trade liberalization literature. Instead the following will be a purely international relations theoretical look at why competing paradigms exist. In particular it will seek to explain through a sociological prism why competing paradigms exist. By using this theory a thorough exploration of trade theory would be both long and redundant.

Section One: The Beginning of Trade Liberalization: Doha Development Round and the Bali Package

Trade liberalization (or free trade) is a policy proposing governments should not discriminate against imports or exports, through tariffs, quotas and so on, from any other state. A regional free trade bloc is an advancement of trade liberalization. A trade bloc occurs when a group of states sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which eliminates import quotas, export subsidies, tariffs and preferences. This could be exemplified by the EU or the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which have established open markets with little restrictions to trade. However, an overarching global multilateral liberalization organization is still absent. The WTO encompasses much of the world’s nation states, but many governments are still protectionist, intending to keep local employment strong, whilst protecting local industry.

Global trade liberalization has been trumpeted by the WTO, but its success has been dire. It has signed off on only one agreement since its inception in 1995. The Bali Package, signed late last year, should not be applauded too loudly. The WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo famously stated after the agreement was reached that “For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered.”[1] With this almost all of the member states of the WTO unilaterally praised the completion of the Bali Package. The signing of this has raised confidence in the ailing multilateral system, and the Doha round of talks. However, does this affect the TPP or RCEP agreements in any way? This paper proposes that it does not. The Bali Package covers only a minute fraction of the original Doha proposals, and was signed off and missed by many commentators who are still transfixed by regional institutionalizing, in particular the TPP.

The End of the Cold War: A New Duality Commences with APEC and the RCEP

The end of the Cold War sparked changes in all aspects of international relations. The bi-polar dichotomy of communism and capitalism essentially ended, but in the Asia Pacific a new dualism began: Asianism versus Pacificism. These terms have been selected not for ethnic or racial reasoning but purely as a way to distinguish the evolving patterns of diplomacy in the region. This era began in earnest in 1989. This new duality developed with the creation of APEC and the EAEC.

APEC is a forum of 21 countries in the Asia Pacific. This forum seeks to promote free trade and economic cooperation. However, as of now, these have not been implemented.[2] APEC formed at a time when the Uruguay Round was floundering, and regional bloc creation was the common goal of numerous states. APEC adopted the Bogor Goals in 1994 with the aim of open and free trade in the Asia Pacific by 2012 for developed countries, and by 2020 for developing countries.[3] Nonetheless, free trade was received lukewarmly by newly industrializing economies and the goals have been unfulfilled thus far. However, many see the TPP and the RCEP as two new groupings that are aiming to fulfil these goals.

From APEC’s inception there was strong opposition to what some viewed as white expansionism into Asia. Some Asians states, particular those in Southeast Asia, perceived APEC as led by white powers such as the US and Australia. They felt this undermined what the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been attempting in the region for thirty years. The main opponent of this expansion into Asia in the 1990s was Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Dr Mahathir has promoted the idea of an Asian regionalism, one that does not include Australia or other ‘non-Asian’ states. This was famously proposed with the EAEC, which was unofficially referenced to as the caucus without Caucasians.[4] This was to be furthered through ASEAN, but it did not garner support. The EAEC will be discussed in more detail later, where a clarification of its hysteresis will be held.

The New Duality

The duality that began in the early 1990s has been recreated in the early 2010s where two initiatives are vying for free trade liberalization in the Asia Pacific. One has been driven as an APEC initiative and one has been driven through ASEAN. This section will briefly introduce the TPP and the RCEP highlighting some differences between the two.

The TPP (APEC Based Liberalization)

Contrary to popular sentiment the TPP was not a US-led initiative. Instead it has its roots in a much smaller agreement between Brunei, Chile, Singapore, and New Zealand: the P4 Agreement.[5] This agreement created a model of free trade that could potentially attract new Asia Pacific members to free trade ideas. The P4 negotiations finished in 2005, and then new ideas were introduced. These ideas included how to re-arrange the group, and the regulation of financial services and investment.[6] When these ideas were being negotiated in March 2008 the US joined the group, pending the decision that the P4 would be expanded to the TPP. In September 2008 the US joined and Australia, Peru, and Vietnam followed suit.[7]

In 2009, after Obama took office, the US began to engage with the TPP with “the goal of shaping a regional agreement that will have broad-based membership and high standards worth of a 21st century trade agreement.”[8] During the third round of talks in Brunei in October 2010 Malaysia joined the negotiations. At the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Honolulu in November 2011 the leaders announced an outline for the TPP. This would include a comprehensive regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses traditional trade issues. Following this Canada and Mexico also joined the negotiations, and then Japan in April 2013.[9] Although not officially sponsored by APEC many view the TPP as an end to the Bogor Goals proposed in 1994. Thus, this paper refers to it as APEC driven.

However, the TPP will not be the vision it once was. Originally it was meant to remove all tariffs and other trade protection policies, and more crucially it was proposed to change corporative policy behavior including state enterprises and agriculture issues. The concept of broader progress will show us that the TPP is much further advanced than RCEP. Nevertheless, it faces many challenges. This includes whether Japan is willing to open up its agriculture to the rest of the signatories. There is possibility that the broader Asian field could open up as proven by Korea recently allowing American products to be imported. However, will this occur in the future?


RCEP is a regional FTA negotiation that was launched “in the margins of the East Asia Summit on 20th November 2012.”[10] This is an ASEAN based initiative that includes the 10 ASEAN countries, and the 6 states that have FTAs with ASEAN. The RCEP has slightly different goals where it would be “a modern, comprehensive, high quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement establishing an open trade and investment environment in the region to facilitate the expansion of regional trade and investment and contribute to global economic growth and development.”[11]

RCEP has its roots in ASEAN frameworks. Its guiding principles state “Negotiations for the RCEP will recognize ASEAN Centrality in the emerging regional economic architecture and the interests of ASEAN’s FTA Partners in supporting and contributing to economic integration, equitable economic development and strengthening economic cooperation among the participating countries.”[12] One major issue to RCEP is whether ASEAN will remain the center of its development. For it to stay central the other members must be willing to accept their operating mechanisms. However, at the recent 2014 ASAN Plenum many Chinese scholars expressed the idea that Chinese decision makers do not full buy the political rhetoric of an ASEAN led RCEP. Thus, if China does indeed leave this grouping, or perhaps join the TPP in the future, this makes RCEP another redundant attempt at liberalizing trade in the region.

The continued prominence of the TPP in the media has reduced RCEP to only a footnote by many onlookers. This has led to concern from ASEAN states.[13] Although both arrangements are likely to coexist, and not fall away like the EAEC, there is likely to be a rivalry between the two. RCEP is a more flexible arrangement that could see its proposed liberalization in a sequential manner, and will include special differential treatment for ASEAN member states. This pragmatic approach takes into account the level of development of a state following the same habitus as ASEAN, and diverging from the TPP’s “No Gold Standard, no deal” approach.[14] Thus, this approach is likely to gain support from ASEAN members, but likely garner distrust from others who see it as an umbrella protecting ASEAN states.

RCEP is a less ambitious arrangement that focuses on eliminating tariffs amongst the member nations. One of the salient challenges this faces is the multiple visions for RCEP that exist. This includes the ASEAN vision, a unified China-Japan-Korea vision, an Oceania vision, and an India vision. These diverse interests lower the level of liberalization that can occur as they are less likely to agree upon a common agenda. This will be explored later in the paper.

Lastly, some advocates of RCEP propose using ASEAN to ‘lick’ the proverbial FTA noodle bowl clean.[15] ASEAN was formed on an all for one and one for all mentality and this is prevalent in RCEP discussions. They promote the idea that the TPP will accentuate economic cleavages that have developed in the region since self-determination post World War II. Thus, a staggered approach for developed and developing states is frequently discussed. However, for this to be effective a double standard or ‘floating yardstick’ must not be institutionalized.[16] With these ideas in mind we must consider why these two groups exist in the region. To achieve this I will now turn to international relations theory.

Section Two: International Relations Theory and why it is Mistaken

In an increasingly global world it has become clear that analytical monotheism cannot fully explain contemporary phenomena. In particular “the complex links between power, interest, and norms defy analytical capture by any one paradigm.”[17] This is pronounced when dealing with regional integration. Instead of trying to normalize a region to fit a preferred paradigm, it would be much more enlightening to look at a situation from varying perspectives. Relations in the Asia Pacific are not shaped solely by power, interest, or identity but always by a combination of the three tempered by innate learning. To understand why this is needed it would be useful to first look at the three major paradigms of international relations to show their analytical pitfalls.


Realist theory has long been the analytical paradigm of choice for many scholars. Whatever realist scholarship one reads, realism has some central tenants. The most important of these being the security dilemma that tempers state conduct. Therefore power plays a central role. Kenneth Waltz would attest that the unipolarity of the US will be short, and when multipolarity arises balancing amongst states will occur. Although Waltz’s theory does not encompass all realists he does introduce many key ideas. This includes the distribution of capabilities, such as absolute security needs and threats. In the Asia Pacific, China and Japan are two such great powers who according to realist literature would be a prime cause for a security dilemma in the region. Also with the current pivot to Asia by the US, it seems logical for realists to suggest China, or indeed Japan, would balance against it. What does this tell us about regionalism?

Realism brings many ideas that are crucial to any discussions about state behavior. There is no doubt that power and capabilities play a role in diplomatic practice. However, realist theory is farcical if one looks beyond its power hungry façade. Peter Katzenstein and Nobuo Okawara aptly point out the limitations of realism. “To infer anything about the direction of balancing requires auxiliary assumptions that typically invoke interest, threat, or prestige-all variables that require liberal or constructivist styles of analysis.”[18] With this statement it becomes apparent that realism loses much of its explanatory power in the Asia Pacific.

Realist theory is also indeterminate. It does not explain who a state will balance against in a particular case.[19] For instance without identity who would South Korea try to balance in the region? Without an ingrained ideational disposition, Korea could balance against China or the US. If there is no identity that is pro-US, then it could make sense for Korea (in a realist sense) to balance against the US encroaching to the region by aligning with the regional powerhouse China. Realism exposes an omnipresent balancing behavior, but it tells us little about which the direction in which this balancing will occur. Regionalism is proposed as a game of chess with states balancing off one another to limit loss. However, this tells us nothing about why the RCEP and TPP are two varying groups with varying membership. If states were primarily concerned about balancing, why does each initiative include many competing powers? If it is suggested that the RCEP is a Chinese based initiative, and the TPP is a US led initiative then this argument could hold true. However, as will be discussed later this is not the case. Therefore this picture is limited, clouding scholarship on regionalism.


Liberal analysis also encounters analytical problems. There are essentially two schools of liberal tradition: one based on common values driving alliance creation, and a school based on efficiency driving interactions.[20] These theorists state that developing a principle norm based relationship is the only way for group to develop. This suggests that shared democratic values provide a basis for a good relationship. Dialogues such as this are included in both the preambles for the TPP and the RCEP. Thus, it appears that if a state adheres to these norms a positive relationship will develop. However, what if a state changes its political orientation drastically? Liberal theory cannot answer this. Instead it proposes that identities are unchanging.

If it is presumed that the promotion of democracy is the unifying norm of institution building, assumptions tempering democracy should be universal amongst states. For example Australia and South Korea have varying philosophies on the method used to create institutions. Australia, much like the US and the UK, enters into diplomatic exchanges legally and with ‘sticks’ in mind. South Korea, much like her Asian neighbors, prefers dialogue with others and the proverbial carrots.[21] Such a difference leaves the linear alliance promoted by norm creation as a limited theory.

The other school of liberalism focuses on efficiency. This promotes the idea that if relationships are efficient, economic growth will occur when states enter into such arrangements with vigor. However, once again identity does not play a role in this either. Free trade is an idea that creates efficiency in the trade of goods and services, and yet the Doha round, and APEC’s Bogor goals have both failed to gain a footing. As will be exposed by practice theory, habitus of each state is what has limited the expansion of so-called efficient institutions.


Analysis using a constructivist paradigm also runs into difficulties. Contrary to neoliberalist sentiment, regional multilateral organization can do more than just facilitate the exchange of information and goods. For instance the ASEAN way of trust building is seemingly a real phenomenon in the Asia Pacific. For instance, the ways the RCEP and also the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) have functioned suggest these mechanisms have been created in a uniquely Asian manner. Nikolas Busse’s work on ASEAN suggests that instead of balancing against perceived threats, in the realist tradition, they attempted to export the ASEAN way to other Asian states through track two diplomatic meetings and the ARF.[22] Therefore informal consultations, consensus building, and non-intervention norms have been created by ASEAN. They tried to inform the US, Japan and China of such norms. However, self-conscious norm creation preferred by such a theory seems rather superfluous in reality. Identity is no doubt important but the way constructivism proposes a creation of norms through deliberate process appears unfounded and superficial. Instead this paper turns to sociology for an answer.

Political Sociology

Political theory has led to a stagnation of enlightening scholarship. Too often diametric debates are held with limited enlightening ideas being created, and debates surrounding the TPP and RCEP are framed in realist and liberal terms. With one side claiming states are entering for their own gain and expansion. This debate suggests that the US is supporting the TPP as an expansion of NAFTA to complete its pivot to Asia, as a method to balance against China. RCEP is often represented as the opposite, with China promoting such an arrangement to balance against the pivot. On the other hand liberal theories suggest that norm creation and liberal trade will lead to these initiatives being signed off. Both theories have merits but miss the mark on why two arrangements have developed. This paper proposes that identity plays a key role in the development. Not identity in the constructivist mold, but one tempered by learning and practice. In particular the theories of Bourdieu and Vincent Pouliot can be particularly enlightening.

The issue of how to understand differences in civilizations, or cultures is a central tenant of social theory. To do this sociologists attempt to expose how, or not, society and civilization as a whole has changed in the last few centuries. This could aid in our exploration for how and why the TPP and RCEP exist. What makes Bourdieu more applicable to the political world is the method in how he has carried out critical and epistemological research without embracing traditional philosophical consciousness or subjectivity.[23] Similarly he developed his ideas into a critical theory that could expose the material of interaction as more practically. By promoting a reflexive theory is becomes applicable for analysis outside the realm of sociology.

Practice Theory: Innate Knowledge Tempers Diplomacy

International relations is a discipline defined by its clear cut theoretical schools. However, these all suffer from what Vincent Pouliot calls ‘representational bias.’[24] Realism, liberalism and other normative examples of international relations theory suffer from their use of rational calculations. Rational calculations refer to decisions made by leaders of states where they see a situation and act accordingly to a situation. They make a judgment strictly based on the situation and do not bring other decision making modes into account. Constructivist approaches are constrained by ideas about how communities and actors must cultivate a collective identity of “‘we-ness’ while consciously blurring the self and other.”[25] To deal with these shortcomings Pouliot has crafted a theory founded on Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘theory of practice.’ The resulting practice theory changes “the arrow of social action-from ideas to practice- and emphasizes how practices also shape the world and its meaning.”[26] Practice theory better explains why some organizations have been more successful than others. If onlookers no longer observe through the looking glass of ‘rationalism’ or ‘collective identity’ creation it becomes apparent that agents act on preconceived knowledge.

Theory is like painting a picture, we try to get it as close to real-life as possible. We can start by sketching with pencil on paper, then move to painting with color on canvas, then we can take a photograph, and 3D images are then created. All of this creates a more life-like image but it is still a representation of reality. This metaphor highlights how theories of international relations view the world. They suffer from representation bias. In response to this, Pouliot puts forth a theory based on Pierre Bourdieu’s idea of practice.

Practice theory is based on concepts of field, habitus and doxa. The position of each actor is tempered by interaction between the agents’ habitus, doxa and their cultural and social disposition. Diplomatic habitus is a “set of regular traits which dispose its bearers to work in a certain way, making diplomacy possible.”[27] Habitus is historical, where history is turned into second nature and is thus actualized in the present.

The field is a setting where agents (in this sense diplomats and state actors) and their social positions, or symbolic positions, are located. A field has three dimensions: relations of power, objects of struggle, and taken-for-granted rules. They are comprised of unequal positions, where some agents dominate others through historically constructed capitals, be it economic or social. Fields can be seen as relatively autonomous from one another as they have been characterized by certain struggles that have been socially and historically constructed.[28]

Actors in a specific order accept the “doxa” – the operational assumptions, rules and norms- that are utilized by the dominant actors. Bourdieu proposed doxa is the experience by which “the nature and social world appears as self-evident.”[29] Crucially, this idea of doxa is in opposition to constructivism. The future anticipated by social agents is “rooted in perceptions of past and present conditions, and harmonized with the “objective” possibilities in the structure for the agent, one cannot, as Bourdieu accused Jean-Paul Sartre and Alain Touraine of doing, attribute “conscious and deliberate intention to social agents.”[30] Therefore a constructivist analysis is highly limited. The ASEAN way may exist in reality but not through conscious creation, and instead it occurs through unconscious creation. Communities and arenas of regional governance are not based on developing collective identities; they are instead based on “relationships of domination where all parties internalize the reigning symbolic order imposed by the dominant actors.”[31] As this becomes internalized, so does the practicality of diplomacy as the acceptable means of state interaction. When practical sense becomes a self-regulating mechanism, preferences are in line with the arrangement and rules of the game. This creates a situation where, as Pouliot puts it, an orchestra exists without a conductor.[32]

If the homology between the field and historically made habitus are broken, the diplomatic pattern that was created falters. Bourdieu calls this phenomenon of disconnection between positions and dispositions hysteresis. This refers to the lag that may occur between cause and effect in social interactions. Bourdieu suggests that hysteresis occurs when “dispositions function out of phase, and practices are objectively adjusted to conditions because they are objectively adjusted to conditions they can no longer obtain.”[33] Hysteresis is captured in diplomacy when the interplay between habitus and field is adapted inadequately to a situation. Thus, they are not acting in harmony with common sense. In global governance, this can occur when a state tries to engage in a diplomatic activity not congruent with the habitus of a particular organization.

Lastly, the easiest way to explain this theory is by using an analogy from real life. If one chooses to play the frightfully English game of cricket, when an individual hits a boundary six (similar to a home run in baseball), the umpire signals this to the scorers by lifting both of his arms above his head. Why does he do this? He is not told to do this by an individual. Instead he does this due to a set of background habits, skills and dispositions – the aspects which make up inarticulate knowledge. As soon as the umpire sees a situation he acts upon it. In diplomatic practice when such practices are enacted everyday they become the background of what future social interactions are based on. States become involved in regional governance not to consciously form a collective identity, they do so due to an inarticulate understanding that this is the practical way to act. Practice theory could therefore provide us with a new and unique way to view regional integration in the Asia Pacific, as it is not pure rational calculation that dictates diplomatic efforts. Rather it is inarticulate knowledge tempering behavior.

Section Three: A History of Hysteresis in the Asia Pacific

The Asia Pacific is no stranger to hysteresis. Although ASEAN is a likely candidate for a doxic regional organization, many other efforts have fallen flat. This section will briefly go through three examples of hysteresis in the region, promoting the idea that habitual differences is historical and will also hinder the TPP and the RCEP.

EAEC (East Asia Economic Caucus): A Miscalculation of Asian Values

The EAEC was a free trade agreement proposed by former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad. This proposal included all ASEAN members and Japan, China, and South Korea (the states included in ASEAN+3). It was the Asianist reaction to APEC, and it was essentially the same as APEC without the US and Australia. However, it was never put into effect. Instead it garnered much opposition from Pacificist and Asianist states. Why was this?

Japan largely opposed this initiative as it did not include Pacificist states. This highlights the specific habitus of Japan at the time and perhaps its habitus to this day. For years Japan was under the US umbrella of safety during the Cold War. Thus when it ended, Japanese habitus was one of anxiousness as it was unsure whether the US would continue to provide security in the region. Simultaneously, the EAEC proposed that Japan would be the lead of this organization when Japanese habitus still wanted to have a protected economy and growth tempered by export growth. These could not occur in this EAEC field. Therefore, a hysteresis relationship occurred between Japan and the EAEC.

The method of introduction by Mohamad did not follow the operation habitus of the Asianist field. Seemingly the ‘Asian values’ debate that occurred in Malaysia and Singapore existed only in these two nations, rather than being a more coherent Asian identity.[34] Therefore when Mohamad proclaimed this new initiative was being created some states balked at it. Self-determination in the economic and security fields of Asian states was not the habitus of Japan, South Korea, China, or Taiwan. Therefore the EAEC was met with great opposition. This is important as it points to a bloc that is not unified, and different habitus exists in each state. This could occur in the RCEP and the TPP in the future.

The Asia Pacific Community (APc)[35] Failure: A Miscalculation of Australian Practice

The APc was first articulated by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in June 2008 at an Asia Pacific Community Forum, and further explained at a Shangri-La conference later that year in Singapore. The APc was enunciated as an Asian Pacific regional institution spanning the whole region. It was envisioned as an institution that “Would engage in the full spectrum of dialogue, cooperation and action economic and political matters and future challenges related to security.”[36] It would not supplant ASEAN, APEC and other regional groupings, but would complement them.

During the drafting of the APc it appears no consideration was paid to how it would actually function. This appears to revolve around hysteresis, the clash of habitus and the field. Australian policy makers, and in fact Kevin Rudd’s practical sense, was socially inadequate for this situation. The APc could have functioned in one of two ways: through the aforementioned ASEAN way, or through an Australian way tempered by their past diplomatic efforts. The APc failure also shows us the definition of field in the region. Australian diplomacy concentrates on Pacificism, emphasizing the inclusive pan-Pacific notion of region and a belief in the San Francisco system. Pacificist habitus would have been inappropriate for the field where Rudd first proposed this idea. Similarly the ASEAN way would have also been unlikely to succeed. If this practice was adapted the consensual style would have had to been adapted by Australia, New Zealand and the US.

The APc idea fell flat due to the Don Quixote effect.[37] Their actions were out of place, inappropriate and out of touch with the field they were trying to act within. This led to a situation where outside behavior was met with hostility. The field they were trying to act within was the Asia Pacific, which includes ASEAN states. This is crucial as the ASEAN way of consensus building should have been used. However, it seems Australian diplomats were unaware of this practice. In the early 1990s, Australian diplomacy moved toward Asia with the Paul Keating administration. This Asianist turn was most famous with the foundation of APEC. However, when John Howard was inaugurated as Prime Minster in 1996 diplomatic capacity was skewed toward the US. This made Australian officials learn an entirely different field, and in turn their habitus was altered, causing this proposal to fail.

Following the initial APc speech many ASEAN nations were scathing in their criticism of Rudd’s proposal. Theo Sambuaga (head of the Indonesian foreign affairs committee) suggested “Rather than create a new body in the Asia-Pacific, why don’t you push development through ASEAN.”[38] Similarly a Malaysian expert suggested in response “(Mr. Rudd) has a responsibility to tell us more instead of just giving us a skeleton and telling us to discuss- you know, we are quite busy ourselves.”[39] The best criticism of the proposal perhaps comes from William T. Tow and Brendan Taylor of ANU. They suggested that there are differences in the way the US and ASEAN approach cooperation. The US (and consequently Australia) attends global governance initiatives with a goal of achieving material outcomes, where ASEAN see the process of cooperation as a means to an end, and thus use such forums to build trust.[40]

Joe Biden’s Habitual Pivot at Yonsei

US Vice President Joe Biden recently made a trip to Asia. This was largely done to transmit information that Barrack Obama refused to do earlier this year due to the disaster that was the US federal government shut down in October. Biden’s trip ran into some bad timing when China announced its new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Thus, his trip largely digressed into the US reiterating they would protect their Asian allies. The actual reason of his visit is not important, but the speeches he gave are. On December 6, 2013, Biden gave a speech at Yonsei University. A close reading of this speech helps decipher American habitus toward the region, and also the way they conduct diplomacy.

If it is contended that the Pacificist habitus of diplomacy is to talk openly and frankly then Biden lived up to this, and did not use the Asianist way of talking around an issue. For example, he frequently expressed that the US “means what it says, and does what it says.”[41] Using direct language such as this could lead to skepticism from Asianist states in the region. However, Biden did show some restraint and was not confrontational on the issue of the TPP. Instead on this point he talked around the issue, much like an Asianist diplomat may do. For instance he urged South Korea “to pursue major agreements”[42] in the economic field. It does not take much thought to realize this was an allusion to the TPP. The method of bring it up seemed to be quite effective and non-confrontational, conforming to the Asianist field. This dichotomy showed that the US habitus in the region is still largely Pacificist, but has changed somewhat to include rhetoric more applicable to Asia.

However, this has not always been the case. An example of hysteresis by the US in the Asia Pacific occurred in 2010 when China’s increasingly modern naval presence caused a rift. This was especially poignant as there are numerous territorial disputes in the region, such as the Spratly and Paracel islands. The US could have aided in the conflict if their habitus was congruent with the Asianist field. It was not. The US Secretary of State at the time Hilary Clinton suggested that the US would be willing to facilitate “multilateral talks on the issue.”[43] This was unsurprisingly met with vehemence by Beijing, as they suggested that the US was interfering in an internal Asian issue.

Chinese Habitual Hysteresis: Highlighting the Difference in Habitus

The Chinese strategy toward multilateral arrangements in the Asia Pacific is to be skeptical of US involvement due to their habitus being tempered largely by geopolitics and not by economics. Therefore, no matter whether the US has other motives or not, China views the US with suspicion.[44] This can be attributed to China looking through the proverbial looking glass. They see the US as themselves and thus see the US as a state looking to expand geopolitically. The US has been omnipresent since its pivot with the goal of hijacking China’s rise regionally and ultimately globally. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that China views the TPP with suspicion.

According to Chinese scholarship, the TPP is viewed as useless without China’s involvement. China’s innate learning of its economic success has led their diplomats and government officials to suggest China has unilaterally been prompting growth in the region for the last decade, and if they are not included the TPP could be considered a charade. This is coupled with ideas that the TPP “contains an obvious political purpose to construe China’s rise.”[45] Chinese scholars have noted almost all of the TPP members are close allies of the US, and thus accuse the US for giving preference to these states in the new trade infrastructure developing in the region.

However, what makes this hysteresis is the fact that the US did not create the TPP. Instead, it was signed by the aforementioned P4 states in 2005. It was not until New Zealand invited the US, that it showed any interest in the group, and it was not until 2008 that the US even agreed to become a part of the TPP. The US did not join until 2008 due hoping the Doha round would reach a positive ending. When it did not, the pro-Bush administration looked at pursuing alternatives. The TPP was found as the alternative. This continued when in November 2009 the Obama administration elected to continue negotiations.

With this knowledge it appears that the Chinese habitus on the TPP is not bound in reality or fact, but by innate learning within a specific field. The US habitus in the Asia Pacific field is to ultimately include China, but the Chinese did not see it this way. They see the TPP diluting trade by forcing China to export to less efficient places, thus causing trade diversion.[46] Also, such an arrangement would make other states closer to the US via treaties, undermining what China has done for the past decade. Chinese rhetoric revolves around the idea that “some Asian countries are currently trying to coup with economies outside the Asian region to establish a wider range of inter-regional free trade relations.”[47] The official rhetoric was along the lines of an old Chinese saying “close neighbors are better than distant relatives.”[48]

There is still habitual distrust among states in the region due to history. For instance, the three large East Asian states (China, Japan and South Korea) have a unique habitus created by strategic distrust of each other, and this has recently grown stronger by the new ADIZ proposed by China in early December. No matter how often China proposes that “integrating China will yield benefits,”[49] the habitus of other states remains skeptical.

Two Competing Habitus: Asianist versus Pacificist

With this background of duality, it appears that differing habitus is driving the diverging initiatives. The idea of Pacificism and Asianism explains the difference in habitus between the TPP and the RCEP. The Pacific is in this section is largely represented by Australia, the US, and New Zealand and Asia by the East Asian states. The Pacific states are faced with an identity problem that can easily lead to hysteresis. When Paul Keating suggested that Australia was an ‘Asian’ country he drew criticism from many in Australian society.[50] The ‘Asianisation’ of Australia would be difficult and flawed on many levels, none more obvious than habitus. Through years of interaction with first the United Kingdom and now the US, Australia has practiced diplomacy though Western-centric doxa based on achieving tangible results, for instance, the creation of a new, seemingly unnecessary multilateral APc arrangement. This includes open talks and transparency in the decision making process. One could also suggest through democratic means. This is the Pacificist way. Australia for all its attempts to fit into the Asian doxa, it is still seen as a White English speaking country, a member of the global North. Australia practically represents a colonial power from the Asian perspective, far away from the doxa prevalent in Asianism. The US also suffers from a hysteresis relationship with Asia, where is appears the general populous sees itself firmly rooted in America, and not in the Asia Pacific. Similarly when they enter diplomatic negotiations they usually use strong inflammatory language that could cause hysteresis. The TPP has begun to suffer from this. When President Obama and Vice President Biden speak of the TPP it is presented as a join us or leave us group. There is no interaction with others, no track two diplomacy, and no flexibility.

Asianist habitus is based on consensus building and quiet diplomacy: the ASEAN way. Although some authors suggest that Asianism itself is not based on clearly defined regional identity, I would venture that it is more doxic than scholars suggest. Although it would be a fallacy to suggest all Asian countries are the same, they do share an acute knowledge they are indeed Asian. This doxa can be found in ASEAN and within East Asia. For instance South Korea for example it has been good at conducting diplomacy with ASEAN, and more recently China. An example of this is the method of diplomacy. Track one diplomacy in the Asia Pacific has had minimal success in the last two decades. APEC was formed out of mainly track-one initiatives, but since then little has been institutionalized. Instead new forms of diplomacy namely two-two and track 1.5 diplomacy, has been introduced to this field. These fit the Asianst habitus more so than Pacificist habitus. Track 1.5 diplomacy denotes a situation where non-official and official agents work together to promote new initiatives. Track-two diplomacy refers to unofficial dialogue aimed at encouraging new ideas and building relationships at the state and domestic level. Many groups are involved in these processes including academics, NGO’s, civil society and others. This has giving way to a proliferation of working groups and conferences in the Asian Pacific. Seemingly many, if not most, of the states in the Asia Pacific are promoting and becoming involved in such diplomatic initiatives. However, South Korea and more broadly Northeast Asia highlight the geopolitical baggage the whole region carries. Regional politics frequently evolve but historically entrenched legacies of past conflicts and struggles still proliferate. Where does this leave the RCEP and the TPP?

Questioning Duality: Alternatives to the Asianist and Pacifist Fields

This paper has shown that the larger Asia Pacific exists geographically but not politically. Instead it was proposed that an Asianist and Pacifist habitus’ compete in the region. However, practice theory could propose that further fields exist that are causing hysteresis in regional trade liberalization. As was discussed earlier RCEP has many competing visions that likely represent habitus: an ASEAN field, a unified Chinese-Japan-Korean field, an Oceania field, and a US field. These sub-fields can further complicate the analysis within the region. This is not like realist balancing rhetoric that is used by defensive realists, but is instead innately learnt fields that disrupt interaction in the region.

Continuing with the sports motif used earlier we can expose the complexity of states conducting diplomacy in the Asia Pacific. The generic Asia Pacific diplomatic field is moot without agents competing on it. To explain the diverse habits use the national sports to explain why hysteresis arises. If it is proposed that ASEAN and Chinese-Japan-Korean habitus is football based, Oceania rugby based, and US American football based observers can see how see how the ‘Asian Pacific’ field will be inundated with hysteresis. It becomes clearer how ASEAN and East Asia may be able to interact, but can see why the others may not be playing by the same rules. Whilst East and Southeast Asia want to slide tackle, Australia, or the US, wants to spear tackle. Asian states may want to conduct 1.5 or 2 track diplomacy and discussion, and the others want 1 track diplomacy and results. These sports use rectangular fields, have goal posts, and painted lines. However, differences in habitus create a situation where different sports are played on a similar field. Further, study of this must be done to see if multiple habitus exists and whether this is hindering development. Although far from a perfect analogy when anyone thinks of European sport they think of football. Thus, could all the states in the EU be playing the same sport leading to a toxic relationship? Furthering this argument could states in the Asia Pacific create a hybrid game where they can all play on the same field? Can they all learn the same game? These are question that must be addressed in future scholarship.

Conclusion: Effective Proliferation or Stagnation of Regionalism in the Asia-Pacific

Why do these two paradigms exist in the Asia Pacific? If Asian Pacific regionalism is examined through practice theory, it is becomes clear why competing regionalisms occur. It is due to two unique habitus’ existing in the region: Asianist and Pacificist. Thus, if it is proposed that an Asian Pacific diplomatic field exists, states that are using diverging belief systems will likely enter diplomatic talks that will turn into hysteresis. This paper proposed that this hysteresis is what caused the APc failure, the EAEC failure, the US pivot to Asia, and China’s recent issues in the region. Regional initiatives have proliferated since the signing of APEC in 1989. This has included the EAEC, ASEAN+3, ASEAN+6, the APc, the East Asian Summit, and others. However, the duality of proliferation using two varying habitus has made these groupings largely redundant.

Duality caused by diverging habitus is the driving force behind the TPP and the RCEP. The TPP is based in Pacificist diplomatic practice, and the RCEP has developed using Asianist practice. Therefore, if we promote the idea that organizations being created using varying diplomatic practice lead to redundancy, the TPP and the RCEP experiences will travel along a similar path. The duality of the past has not changed, habitus has not been tempered buy these experiences. Therefore, this paper predicts that proliferation of regional initiatives will lead to stagnation, or non-institutionalization, of trade liberalization in the Asia Pacific. Y


[1]      “W.T.O. Reaches First Global Trade Deal,” REUTERS, December 8, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/business/international/wto-reaches-first-global-trade-deal.html?_r=0 (accessed December 9, 2013).


[2]      Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, “Member Economies,” http://www.apec.org/About-Us/About-APEC/Member-Economies.aspx (accessed December 9, 2013).


[3]      Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, “Assessment of Achievements of the Bogor Goals in 2010,” http://www.apec.org/About-Us/About-APEC/Achievements-and-Benefits/2010-Bogor-Goals.aspx (accessed December 9, 2013).


[4]      Baogang He, “The Awkwardness of Australian Engagement with Asia: The Dilemmas of Australian Idea of Regionalism,” Japanese Journal of Political Science 12, no.2 (2011): 276.


[5]      “Trans-Pacific Pertnership (TPP) Negotiations,” New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Manatu Aorere, http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Trade-and-Economic-Relations/2-Trade-Relationships-and-Agreements/Trans-Pacific/index.php (accessed December 9, 2013).


[6]      Ibid.


[7]      Ibid.


[8]      “Trans-Pacific Pertnership (TPP) Negotiations.”


[9]      Ibid.


[10]    “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),” New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Manatu Aorere, http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Trade-and-Economic-Relations/2-Trade-Relationships-and-Agreements/RCEP/index.php (accessed December 9, 2013).


[11]    Ibid.


[12]    “Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership,” http://www.iadb.org/intal/intalcdi/PE/CM%202013/11581.pdf.


[13]    Daniel Wu and Marc Mealy, “Explaining “competing” visions: ASEAN-RCEP, TPP, FTAAP,” PacNet 4, 1.


[14]    Ibid.


[15]    John Ravenhill, “Extending the TPP: The Political Economy of Multilateralisation in Asia” (paper presented at Asia Pacific Trade Economists, Bangkok, November 2-3, 2009, 1).


[16]    Wu and Mealy, “Explaining “competing” visions: ASEAN-RCEP, TPP, FTAAP.”


[17]    Peter Katzenstein and Nobuo Okawara, “Japan, Asian-Pacific Security, and the Case for Analytical Eclecticism,” International Security 26, no.3 (2001): 154.


[18]    Ibid., 168.


[19]    Ibid.


[20]    Ibid., 169-171.


[21]    Ibid., 170.


[22]    Ideas expressed in Peter Katzenstein and Nobuo Okawara, “Japan, Asian-Pacific Security, and the Case for Analytical Eclecticism,” International Security 26, no. 3 (2001): 173.


[23]    Craig Calhoun, Edward LiPuma and Moishe Postone, eds., Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993): 62-64.


[24]    Vincent Pouliot, “The Logic of Practicality: A Theory of Practice of Security Communities,” International Organization 62, no.2 (2008): 260.


[25]    Ibid.


[26]    Vincent Pouliot, International Security in Practice: The Politics of NATO-Russia Diplomacy (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 5.


[27]    Ibid., 46.


[28]    Ibid.


[29]    Pierre Bourdieu, “Structures, Habitus, Power,” in Culture / Power / History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, eds., Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley and Sheey B. Ortner (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993): 160.


[30]    Deborah Reed-Danahay, Locating Bourdieu (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 2005): 109.


[31]    Peter Jackson Review in Catherine Lu and Diane Labrosse, eds, “H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable Review of Vincent Pouliot’s International Security in Practice: The Politics of NATO-Russia Diplomacy,” Roundtable 2, no.5 (2011): 17.


[32]    Vincent Pouliot, International Security in Practice: The Politics of NATO-Russia Diplomacy (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 46.


[33]    Bourdieu quoted in Vincent Pouliot, International Security in Practice: The Politics of NATO-Russia Diplomacy (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 48.


[34]    Baogang He, “The Awkwardness of Australian Engagement with Asia: The Dilemmas of Australian Idea of Regionalism,” Japanese Journal of Political Science 12, no.2 (2011): 269.


[35]    The ‘C’ is a small c in this acronym. Rudd did this to try and minimise criticism that this group would supersede other group. This is hysteresis in action.


[36]    Frank Frost, “Australia’s Proposal for an ‘Asia Pacific Community’: Issues and Prospects,” Parliament of Australia Research Paper 13 (2009): 6.


[37]    Vincent Pouliot, International Security in Practice: The Politics of NATO-Russia Diplomacy (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 48.


[38]    Frost, “Australia’s Proposal for an ‘Asia Pacific Community’: Issues and Prospects.”


[39]    Ibid.


[40]    He, “The Awkwardness of Australian Engagement with Asia: The Dilemmas of Australian Idea of Regionalism,” 277.


[41]    Quoted from Biden’s Speech at Yonsei University on December 6, 2013.


[42]    Ibid.


[43]    Ibid.


[44]    Wen Jin Yuan, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership and China’s Corresponding Strategies,” A Freeman Briefing Report, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (June 2012): 1-3.


[45]    Ding Gang and Ji Peijuan quoted in Wen Jin Yuan, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership and China’s Corresponding Strategies,” A Freeman Briefing Report, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (June 2012): 2.


[46]    Yuan, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership and China’s Corresponding Strategies,” 6.


[47]    Ibid.


[48]    Ibid.


[49]    Ibid., 9.


[50]    He, “The Awkwardness of Australian Engagement with Asia: The Dilemmas of Australian Idea of Regionalism,” 278.


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