Article Title

Asia Pacific Perspectives Vol. 11 No. 1, August 2013

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Editor's Note by John Nelson and Dayna Barnes

Languages of Human Rights in Timor-Leste by David Webster

This paper examines the historical process by which Timorese embraced the language of human rights, and their transnational support networks as diffusion belts for “rights talk.” It argues for a two-way understanding of rights diffusion, suggesting that Timorese framing of rights have contributed to a global shift towards a wider understanding of human rights as more than simply civil liberties in the Western tradition. Human rights, in other words, is a language that has served the Timorese independence cause, and in turn informed that cause.

Two Rights Paths: East Asia's Emerging Regional Human Rights Framework by Silvia Croydon

Until recently, a notable aspect of East Asia was its lack of a regional human rights mechanism. Two regional human rights initiatives towards providing the region with such are now been undertaken – an inter-governmental level one by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and one based on a network of domestic commissions by the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions. This article surveys the evolution of these two initiatives, and considers them in the context of the enduring “Asian values” debate. It argues that even though there are shortcomings to both initiatives, their mutually propelling development improves the prospects for a human rights mechanism in the region.

Assertive or Reassuring Chinese Presence in Troubled Waters? The Decision-Making Process of Beijing's South China Sea Policy by Mike Chia-Yu

Huang China’s maritime power has been rapidly ascending in the past three decades alongside its exceptional economic development. Nevertheless, regional countries are suspicious of China’s rapid rise because although Beijing pledges to pursue a “peaceful development” its assertiveness in South China Sea has been increasing in recent years. What causes the contrast between China’s assertiveness and its reassuring rhetoric? This article argues that due to the fragmented decision-making process, China lacks clear and well-coordinated policies on the South China Sea disputes. In particular, inter-agency competition encourages government agencies to undertake more aggressive actions given the attempt to bargain for more budget funds and bureaucratic power. This phenomenon has mixed implications for regional stability in Asia. The assertiveness of China is not the product of a well-thought out plan, and Beijing’s attempt to break the maritime balance of power may not as imminent as the realists warn. On the other hand, without a functional policy coordinating mechanism, more unpredictable Chinese operations at sea may be seen in the future.

Towards a Modern Context for the Traditional Whaling Songs of Japan by Felicity Greenland

This paper analyzes historical Japanese folk songs to provide cultural perspectives on contemporary Japanese attitudes towards whaling. It reveals the deep connection between whaling and Japanese community identity, and helps to explain the resistance to and rejection of international anti-whaling campaigns, which fail to recognize this significant facet of Japanese culture. This research uses the songs to investigate traditional whaling and its later counterparts, and discusses the role that folk songs might serve in the current whaling debate. The intangible cultural heritage of Japanese whaling includes a body of traditional, local folk songs known as kujira uta whose lyrics outline Edo period whaling practices in terms of geography, personnel, techniques and species, and provide insight into cultural attitudes. Content analysis of fifty songs, and comparison with contextual sources, contributes to an understanding of the songs as local affirmations of a wider social, folkloric and spiritual consensus set in an international arena.

When the Tide Goes Out: Citizen Participation in Japan After the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster by Pablo Figueroa

Finally, with this issue, Asia Pacific Perspectives introduces a new type of article, one we are calling “Think Piece.” This new series will allow contributors to respond to current events and big ideas in the Asia-Pacific region in a shorter, more informal style that integrates personal opinion informed by scholarship and the author’s expertise. We hope you will find value in our first “Think Piece.”