This conference examines the ramifications and implications of the confluence of major trends and dynamics centered in the Indo-Pacific, fundamentally impacting on global order. Two trends will be the focus of discussion. First is the growing primacy of the Indo-Pacific in driving the global transformation in technological and industrial affairs. Second is the intensifying geo-political, geo-strategic, and geo-economic volatility and rivalry taking place among major states in the Indo-Pacific, foremost of which is the strategic competition between the U.S. and China. Techno-strategic, techno-economic, techno-nationalist, and other techno-centric oriented considerations now exert growing influence in the workings of the international system.
The combative approach against China being pursued by the U.S. since the mid-2010s rests on the judgement that China’s catch-up in high-tech sectors such as semiconductors is still heavily dependent on market access and technology cooperation with Western nations –such as the EU and its member states– and American allies like Japan. To slow China’s technological rise, the U.S. has sought to drastically throttle these technology and innovation flows to China. In response, China is emphasising the importance of technological self-reliance and economic securitisation, which has led to major efforts to overhaul its economy and innovation system to protect against external threats.
For its part, the Abe administration had started moving before 2020 to defend Japan’s technological base through tighter export controls and foreign investment screening mechanisms. In 2020, Tokyo strengthened the surveillance of university laboratories to prevent outflows of advanced technologies. Following the pandemic, the Japanese government also established funding mechanisms to woo Japanese companies to diversify away from China, and sought to mitigate the economic consequences of China establishing a sphere of influence through its own connectivity initiatives by promoting Japan’s own ‘high quality’ infrastructure initiatives. The EU and NATO are also in the process of launching similar initiatives, as evidenced by tighter investment screening mechanisms, export controls and connectivity initiatives in the digital sphere.
While geopolitics and security considerations loom large, the ultimate end-state from recent supply-chain diversification initiatives and from the United States’ trade and tech war with China is still unclear. China’s position in global value chains is, after all, mostly dependent on regional demand, rather than American demand, and Foreign Direct Investment into China actually grew in 2020, making China the largest recipient of global FDI. At the same time, one commercial domain where Japanese government and corporate manoeuvring is likely to profoundly affect strategic diversification is telecommunications, emerging technologies and strategic industries of the future. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the drastic global strategic and economic consequences adds to the uncertainty of what the future holds, although the prospects for heightened frictions, deglobalisation, and militarisation are ominous.
This conference brings together leading academic and policy experts from Europe, the U.S. and the Indo-Pacific to discuss where the geopolitical, geo-economic, and techno-strategic fault lines lie in the Indo-Pacific as development of and competition over new and emerging technological innovation and industrialisation heats up. Moreover, it aims to provide insight into how we can square the circle in search of regional security, prosperity, and pluralistic values.
Zoom links to the conference will be sent upon registration.