AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 216

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Session 216: Asian Perceptions of Democracy and Human Rights I

The Chinese Understanding of Democracy and the Chinese-style Democracy
Jung Nam Lee, Korea University, South Korea

After three decades of reform and opening up of the economy, China's reform policy is now at a historical turning point—from economic to political reform. Therefore, the issues of political reform and democratization have become hot topics in China. But China has made clear that it will pursue Chinese-style democracy, while noting that different models of democracy suit different countries' specific conditions. Based on an analysis of remarks by top CPC and government leaders and intellectuals on democracy, this study tries to analyze if the Chinese-style democracy marks the emergence of a new model of democracy that is different from the liberal Western model and the existing people’s democracy model.

What Does the Demos in Asia Mean by Democracy?
Jungug Choi, Independent Scholar, South Korea

My study deals with the issues of (1) what the mass public means by democracy in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, (2) how different or similar the popular idea of democracy is among the three “democratic” countries, (3) whether there is a single dominant conception of democracy in each country or in all the three countries, and (4) if so, what it is, and which socioeconomic groups or communities carry the dominant conception. It will use the Asian Barometer Survey data about Japan, Korea and Taiwan. My preliminary research shows that the most popular meaning of democracy in the three East Asian democracies involves the term of freedom. In other words, the East Asian democratic citizens think that democracy is the same as freedom of thought, express, or economy. This understanding is very close to the idea of liberal democracy in general. Nonetheless, more than a majority of the East Asian citizens carry other conceptions of democracy, some of which deny freedom. I will explore why some citizens understand democracy simply as freedom while others do not. My research model is a logistic regression model. One of my primary interests is whether the citizenship (Korean, Japanese, or Taiwanese) makes any effect on the understanding of democracy as freedom. My other interests are whether and how the other variables such as gender, education, social status, religion, residential area (urban or rural areas), age, and income affect the idea of democracy as freedom.

A Reassessment of Human Rights Practices in Southeast Asia: The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights
Elena Asciutti, Independent Scholar, Italy

The ASEAN Heads of State and Government approved the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in July 2009 and inaugurated the new body during their 15th Summit held in Thailand in October 2009.The paper presents an analysis of the AICHR, in order to verify whether the creation of the Commission can be considered as the result of ASEAN socialisation to international human rights norms and advocacy of human rights networks or whether the AICHR reproduces the rhetoric of Asian values or proposes a new approach to human rights in Southeast Asia according to international human rights norms. It is crucial to analyse States’ socialisation within ASEAN to international human rights norms. For doing so, the paper will test the five-phase spiral model elaborated by Risse, Ropp and Sikkink (1999). The spiral model explains the phases a State may progress through in matter of human rights in response to pressure from human rights advocacy networks. Each phase of the spiral model highlights how networks of domestic and international human rights civil society organisations, UN bodies and States promoting international human rights norms may be able to influence a target State’s identity, interests and behaviours. The paper will upgraded the spiral model to a regional mechanism - ASEAN - to observe member States’ common reaction to internal and external pressures in matter of human rights. The spiral model adopts a constructivist approach that assumes intersubjective ideas and material factors have a significant influence on human interaction.

Democracyis a Gift from the Dalai Lama: An Inquiry into the Role of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, his Gift of Democracy and its Tibetan Recipients
Trine Brox, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Since the Fourteenth Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 and established a Government in Exile in India, democracy has been made a central pillar in the 130.000 exile-Tibetans' struggle for self-determination in Tibet. In my paper I will refer to problems relating to the fact that democracy is perceived by exile-Tibetans as a gift handed to them by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. It is an enchanted gift—a gift imbued with the splendour of its donor. Such an enchanted gift simultaneously emancipates and restricts the recipients, as these imagine democracy differently and infuse dissimilar meanings into it. I shall show that, in some cases, the gift was never unwrapped and explored, appraised or embedded into everyday life. In these cases the gift was perceived by its recipients as sacred and they placed the unwrapped gift up on their home-altars beside the Buddha statues, the sacred scriptures and the picture of the Dalai Lama. People who treated it in this way tend to circumvent democracy as if it is untouchable. Other Tibetans simply received the gift of democracy as a blessing and reciprocated it by dutifully showing up at elections. Thus, being regarded as a gift given top-down by a religious and political leader in exile, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, to a people in exile, this gift status of democracy is also a source for democratic deficits. The paper will be based on research conducted for my Ph.D. thesis "The Enchanted Gift of Democracy: Imagining and Negotiating Democracy in the Tibetan Diaspora".