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Regional Conference on Asian Scripts

Mar 21, 2022



The conference took place virtually on 21–23 February 2022, with restricted access, and was hosted by the Cluster of Excellence SCRIPTS under the lead of Prof. Michael Zürn, Co-Director of SCRIPTS, and Principal Investigator and GIGA President Prof. Amrita Narlikar. A second event is envisioned to take place later in 2022, hopefully in person.


Amrita Narlikar, German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and Hamburg University/SCRIPTS, Germany

Michael Zürn, WZB Berlin Social Science Center and Freie Universität Berlin/SCRIPTS, Germany


Key topics:
1. The relative importance of the liberal script
2. Contestation of the scripts
3. Alternative scripts
4. Interaction on the local level

KEYNOTES: Scripts in Asia – one or many?

Exploring Alternative Liberal Order Ideas: A South Asian Perspective

Amitabh Mattoo, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

-          Hindu Pacific as the new center of the world (climate change, cyber security etc.)

-          Failure of western liberal order & lack of understanding for Global South: understudied Chinese and Indian strategic culture

-          Outlook: Study may aid western policies

Anthropological approach:

-          India’s strategic culture as an important intervening variable

-          Realism cannot explain policy: Narrative of self-restraint due to spiritual tradition

  1. Krsna: Mahabharata

-          Reference: Krishna in Defense of a Devious Divinity – BK Matilal

-          Krsna - strategic visionary (moral philosophy of state action)

-          Karma: an explanation for protecting national interest within the larger context of global humanity

-          Independent action (not passivity) and concern for the larger good

  1. Karuna (compassion)
  2. Ethical Weltanschauung


  1. Rights (protection of individual and community)
  2. Representation (form of institution)
  3. Resolution (the way by which conflicts are settled)


China and the Liberal International Order: Critical Engagement

Lin Wei, University of International Business and Economics, China

-          Importance of the perspective of the liberal script

-          Causes of contestation of Chinese liberal script through scholars


1. Descriptive – knowledge

2. Behavioral – practice

Chinese IR theory

– “explicit penetration” (Qi) of culture into the core of theories

Tingyang Zhao model: “all under heaven system” (Tianxia)

-          Inclusive system, no aliens, institutions for all and not some, non-exclusivity, ontology of co-existence (rather than individuality), familyship

à creates peace, global governance and stable world order

Xuetong Yang: Moral Realism

-          power as core concept

-          the international system as hierarchical

-          but: material power alone cannot sustain leadership – moralism important role

-          Humane authority (wangdao): sustainable leadership (not hegemony - badao)

YaqingQin: Relational theory

-          World made up of relations rather than individuals

-          International actors = actors-in-relation

-          Processes = relations in motion

-          Relationality: All relationships are Yin Yang (state of nature: harmony)

-          Social actors: act relationally rational

Chinese diplomatic thoughts

-          Developmental peace vs. democratic peace

-          Partnership diplomacy vs. alliance diplomacy

-          Consensus-based multilateralism vs. rules-based multilateralism

Critical engagement & co-evolution

-          Chinese script does not want to overthrow liberal order

-          critical engagement and contestation of scripts may facilitate and promote evolution

Core Questions:

  1. What is the liberal script? How to establish a clear conceptual boundary?
  2. What is the difference between the western and the liberal script?
  3. What is the relationship between the Indian and the Chinese script?
  4. What are the nuances in the way in which liberalism is understood and practiced?


PANEL 1: The Liberal Script in Asia

Conceptual Roundtable on “the” Liberal Script in Asia and Asian Liberalism(s): Theoretical Puzzles, Methodological Problems, Policy Implications

Moderation: Verena Blechinger-Talcott, Freie Universität Berlin/SCRIPTS, Germany

Amrita Narlikar and Michael Zürn

-          Understanding of the Asian script of liberalism

  1. 1.      Discussion of liberalism from a western perspective

-          Many liberalisms in the world

  1. 2.      Scripted Asian policies not new

-          Gap in literature

  1. 3.      Liberalism understudied in Asia

3 Hypotheses:

-          The reference point from the Indian perspective was Britain

-          False dichotomies (west vs. rest, Asian script as fundamentally different)

-         The liberal script has always existed in Asia

Louise Fawcett, University of Oxford, UK

-          A comparative look towards Latin America and the Middle East is worthwhile

-          Latin America and the Middle East were neglected in terms of relation to scripts and international order

Latin America

-          Due to “closeness” to the west, it is not worthwhile to study scripts in Latin America (embedded in the western script)

Middle East

-          Not seen as an active player

-          Arab “spring” narrative turn away from the liberal script: Arab “winter”

-          The historical temper of the Ottoman Empire not revisited

John Keane, University of Sydney, Australia

A historical look at liberalism:

-          The tension between value promotion and action

  1. Origination from expansionist imperial project

-          The outset of liberalism 19th century

-          Entanglement of liberal ideas and empire

-          European liberal promoters of colonies

  1. Violent predation of liberalism

-          Liberalism gave itself a bad name in Asia

-          Liberals welcoming imperial troops

-          Liberals’ “old love” with leviathan

-          Left behind power holders mimicking imperial masters

  1. Strife in former colonies

-          Backlashes in Asia

-          Damages not forgotten

  1. Neo-liberalism as the naturalization of inequality and the backing of state force

-          Liberalism is deeply attached to possessive individualism

-          Language of democracy more important than liberalism

-          The USA is not the guardian of liberal democracy

  1. Resurgent state China

-          Rules of China producing new narratives

-          Economic pragmatism/Marxism

C. Raja Mohan, National University of Singapore

-          Linkage of Asia and Europe: dynamic intersection

3 Paradoxes

  1. Dichotomy

-          The misperceived idea of Asian unity (homogenous “other” space)

-          Construction of unity false– no agreement on Asian values

-          Countries fighting the same problems, but different imperialists

  1. Dynamic intersection

-          The emergence of Asia and Europe was linked, not separate, e.g. Indians fighting in second world war

-          Break out of the colonial paradigm

-          Asian players construed as passive actors

-          The dynamic intersection of Europe and Asia

  1. Capitalism

-          Discussion of ideational values and not economic order – capitalism related

-          The idea of globalization: make the world safe for capitalism

-         The tension between emerging capital and western capital

Core Questions:

  1. Is liberalism destroying itself?
  2. How has liberalism evolved?
  3. Occidentalism: What about the liberal view from the Asian perspective?
  4. Which scripts underly practices?

PANEL 2: Asian Scripts and variations

Moderation: Sebastian Conrad, Freie Universität Berlin/SCRIPTS, Germany

A Javanese Spin on Democracy: Indonesian Society’s Adaptation the Liberal Script

Thomas Seitz, University of Wyoming, USA

George Towar Ikbal Tawakkal, Brawijaya University, Indonesia

Andrew Garner, University of Wyoming, USA

-          Examination of Indonesian democratization

Central question: How do countries adopt democratic ideas and norms when transitioning?

Concepts understood differently in Indonesia than in the West:

  1. Power – understood different in Indonesia
  2. Government – word for government “to command” (meaning shapes expectation)
  3. History – a legacy of kings, shapes role of politicians

Key findings:

-          The most important people are “village heads” and not national politicians

-          Vote-buying follows a specific pattern:

  1. Vote perceived as cash value
  2. Collective vote-buying, e.g. village heads buys collective goods with votes
  3. Vote-buying is not purely transactional, it is seen as a sign of respect

-          Democracy as a function of time: government selling democracy to its people (building democratic ethos), run against challengers, e.g. Chinese or Singapore model

-          Islam: adapted to local practices in Indonesia - specific form on Islam rather than replacement of former religion/culture


The ‘Community of Shared Future’ as a Chinese script: tradition, history and liberal contestation (absorption)

Tim Summers, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Argument: Mix of traditional Chinese ideas and liberal ideas

-          Integration of liberal ideas with a desire to be distinctive, be heard, engage with the world and integrate into the world order

-          Democracy discourse is different to western conception (less focus on voting and more on the process of democracy)

Alternative script: Community of shared futures

-          “Common” human values discourse (not “universal” values)

-          Human beings a whole “global village”

Xi Jinping: 1. Peace and development 2. Equity and human rights 3. Democracy and freedom

-          liberal values - words only recently entered China through Japan

History and tradition

-          Entry of Chinese ideas into IR “all under heaven world”

-          Rejection of Westphalian model of the international system

-          Different approaches to Chinese wisdom, e.g. post-colonial impulse

-          Marx more often referred to than Confucius


Harmonizing dissonant scripts: Monarchy and liberalism in Japan and Thailand

David M. Malitz, German Institute for Japanese Studies, Japan

-          Contestation of liberal script historically not a new phenomenon (policy-values mismatch)

-          Examination of tension: case Study Japan and Thailand

-          The symbolic function of monarchies

The Monarchy as the traditional authority is able to harmonize scripts

Japanese history: adoption of differing scripts

-          19th-century colonization of those not adopting liberal values

-          Courts established

-          Submission to unequal treaties with Europe

-          Colonial rule established

-          Monarchies as indispensable partners of the US against communism

-          Japan more stable democracy than the US

Adoption of variation of scripts also seen in the history of Thailand through the symbolic function of the monarchy


East Asia and the Borderland of the Liberal International Order: A Regional History

Min Shu, Waseda University, Japan

-          Borderland as an analytical framework

Liberal international order (LIO)

  1. Ideational dimension – core liberal values
  2. Spatial dimension – liberal democracies in the west
  3. Power dimension – virtues of liberal hegemony

Borderland history

  1. Methodological perspective

-          demarcation/division

-          Different ideas come together – borderland mixing on the local level

  1. From ordering/division to local conditions
  2. Border authority and the ambiguities of power in the borderland

The LIO at the borderland:

  1. Ideational: uneasy mixing of liberal values and non-liberal aims and norms
  2. Spatial: Contestation of liberal international order on its periphery
  3. Power: Pitfall of liberal hegemony and the failed promise of the LIO


  1. Ideational entanglement – from extra-regional to regional
  2. Local contingency – from the periphery to center
  3. Ambiguities of power – growing challenges to illiberal power

Examples from East-Asia:

-          Self-determination vs. imperial expansion

-          Anti-communist ideology vs. authoritarian state-building

-          Neo-liberal vs. state-led developmentalism

-          Minority HR vs. complex local cleavage



With Ummu Salma Bava, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

-          Different countries assessed: Indonesia, China, and japan

-          When history is written privileges of knowledge come into play

-          Political cultures are different: resistance to harmonization

-          Political systems have the ability to innovate and strive: value addition and adoption rather than erasure

-          The absence of codification of norms or scripts does not mean there is an absence of ideas/norms (universal vs. common)

-          No condemnation of all institutions, e.g. monarchy goes well with liberalism as history shows

-          Beltway perspective


PANEL 3: Human Security and Global Constitutionalism

Postcolonial World-making: the interactions between domestic and international order scripts in mid-twentieth century India
Tobias Berger, Freie Universität Berlin/SCRIPTS

Notes: Contribution of Southern actors to global transformation and global liberal order. Central questions: a) how did India seek to shape the international after WWII; b) How are these attempts grounded in the domestic concerns of creating a postcolonial democracy and c) To which extent do the conceptualisation depart from familiar varieties of liberal script

Argument: Indian agency in the shaping of international order and India’s position in UNHRC follows neither a liberal teleology nor a Cold War rivalry. Rather it is based on its own domestic predicaments of becoming a postcolonial state in an overwhelmingly imperial world and thereby not derivative of any dominant liberal discourse.


Asian Scripts of Human Security
Ayako Kobayashi, Sophia University, Japan

Notes: How did Asian intellectuals harmonize ideas, crystallize a concept or compromise? Kobayashi answers this question through human security framework and compares the following three thinkers on their understanding of human security: Haq (Pakistan), Sen (India), Ogata (Japan).

Argument: Ogata’s understanding of human security is based more on peaceful co-existence however this is not well represented in the human security framework.


Potential of a “Refugee Law” detached from Human Rights Values in East and Southeast Asia; In Light of the Post-WWII Japanese Experience
Kaoru Obata, Nagoya University, Japan

Argument: There is a need for norm-based refugee law rather than dividing between good and bad asylum seekers in Japan.


The Predicament of Japan’s “Human Rights Foreign Policy” as an Illustration of the Dilemma between the Two Narratives in Different Dimensions in the West and Asia
Hideaki Shinoda, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan

Notes: Japan is a liberal democracy although a modest kind. Japanese type of liberal democracy is less aggressive and less agile. This is largely because Japan is a declining power and does not belong to a robust security framework other than the one with US, which is a strange one.

Argument: Japan does not assert itself that aggressively and hence it is a “modest” form of liberal democracy, which should be added to the type of currently existing liberal scripts.



With Alec Stone Sweet, The University of Hong Kong

Themes: ownership of the liberal script; peaceful co-existence and human security; agency of Southern actors in shaping liberal institutions and the liberal script/ways to find autonomy of agency for Southern actors/states; existence or non-existence of “Asian values”; market-based capitalism and the technocratic state in Asia; rights-based constitutionalism in Asia; different understandings of sovereignty


PANEL 4: Asian finance and the liberal script: contestation, compliance or co-optation?

Main question: Is there a liberal script of finance? If yes, then how does the Asian version of finance fit into the liberal script?

From Europe to Asia? Post-Crisis Shifts in the Global Financial System and their Potential Challenge to the Liberal Script
By Johannes Petry, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany Fabian Pape, University of Warwick, UK

Notes: IPE debates are along the two following foci: a) literature on macro-economic finances and b) private banking flows between EU and US. The transatlantic connection is strong and influences the way in which the economic system works globally. However, there is currently a tectonic shift where Asia plays a bigger role in global financial system than the EU-US.

Argument: IPE needs to better understand Asian financial system to make sense of the changing global financial system. IPE’s perspective is informed by neoliberalism but there is a persistence of developmental logic in the new Asian financial way. However, neoliberal logic exists despite Asian financialisation becoming more prominent. The implications to these changes can be seen in how investors in both Asia and Europe behave.


Japan’s Mixed Responses to the Liberal Script of Financialization and Digitalization
Fumihito Gotoh, University of Sheffield, UK

Notes: There is a shift away from neoliberalism and to a virtuous cycle of redistribution that was introduced by the prime minister early last year. In this context, how can Japan’s mixed responses to financialisation and digitalisation be explained?

Argument: There is a mixed response to the financialisation and digitalisation in Japan. There is one group of actors that are pro-financialisation and digitalisation and another that it is not. The explanation for the latter is largely due to the communitarian-based capitalism that Japan has thus far followed. Furthermore, the pro-financialisation and digitalisation camp lack political power because they are detached from social norms and this is because liberal capitalism does not adhere to communitarian values that is attested by Japanese society.


Membership and its Benefits: Vote Shares in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
Soo Yeon Kim, National University of Singapore Jesslene Lee, University of Toronto, Canada

Notes: The authors ask what do states gain from joining AIIB? They compare India and the UK as case studies of differing reasons for joining AIIB.

Argument: Dissatisfied countries gain more voting power in AIIB when compared to the voting power they have in existing institutions (World Bank, ADB). When it comes to the liberal script, there is no contestation in institutional design but there is contestation on leadership.


Islamic finance in Southeast Asia: contesting or reaffirming liberal financial scripts
Lena Rethel, University of Warwick, UK

Notes: Rethel compares Anglo-American and Islamic finance and asks if they are different financial scripts. She compares two financial systems of green sukuk and green taxonomies to make her argument. She uses the theory of “grafting” because it allows an analytical framework to consider ongoing dynamics of diffusion and contestation.

Argument: There exist significant difference between Anglo-American and Islamic financial scripts.



With Mark Hallerberg, Hertie School/SCRIPTS, Germany

Themes in the discussion round

paths taken by emerging countries and developed countries in the global financial system; decoupling of financialisation and digitisation in Japan; varieties of capitalism; power and influence matter over the type of liberal script; focus on domestic financial markets by Asian countries and therefore their relevance/irrelevance in the international financial system; an alternative script or a variation of a liberal script

Concluding point by moderator of this session Thomas Risse

Asian varieties of liberal financial script exist but it is not an external challenge to the capitalist way of organising finance.


PANEL 5 - Competition or Complementarity: The BRI and Liberal Connectivity Scripts. 

Moderation: Gülay Caglar


Colliding Scripts? BRI and the 17+1 Initiative

Tanja Börzel, Freie Universität Berlin/SCRIPTS Germany

Valentin Krüsmann, Centre for East European and International Studies/SCRIPTS, Germany

Julia Langbein, Centre for East European and International Studies, Germany

Lunting Wu, Freie Universität Berlin/SCRIPTS, Germany 


China´s script characterized by “conditionality through the backdoor”. This model is based on political stability and control; economic and social development is more important than civic and political rights; pragmatic government based on experimentation of policies; controlling macro-economic development through national policies like the industrial policies; guiding and fulfilling social responsibilities of citizens; central role of the party-state; rule by law (ruling the country according to the law) - the party makes rules and every political and state function is governed by it; policies are extremely localized to maximize efficacy. 


-          China-BRI

Broken promises of the BRI - there is some serious disillusionment in the CEE and the Western Balkans.

Some overlap between Chinese and BRI models.

At the policy level, some commonalities like pragmatism, economic and social development, localized policies and Westphalian sovereignty, in the implementation the centrality of the party state and the rule by law.

Yet differences: BRI is open, it aligns with international norms and rules, it has a development which is market-based and it is inclusive; infrastructures are considered the engine for development; the BRI is very much defiant to local policies compared to central policies and it promotes an exclusive development. 

The promotion of BRI is very fragmented, at different governmental levels, but what is common in this strategy is the fact that promotion goes through state structures, it is never civic actors because China focuses on state systems.


-          BRI-EU

On the policy level BRI and EU have similar features: inclusive development, openness and respect of international norms and rules; they are different because BRI is market-led and the EU is rule-based and values-driven in its development. 

On the implementation level, they have complementary features: BRI supports “conditionality through the door” and serves Chinese interests, while the EU is facing a democratization-stability dilemma when it comes to development in the Western Balkans or third countries; as distinct features, the conditionality of the BRI creates an exclusive development and the consolidation of rent-seeking practices, while the EU uses a transnationalised embedded liberalism (pre-accession to the CEE) and disembedded (post-accession) towards countries that join the Union, and this leads to an inclusive development. 

The EU has supranational powers to impose decisions, yet little political right to do so. Now there is the mandate to comply with rule of law to access funds (Hungary/Poland) yet this conditionality has just started. The EU moves within rule of law realms but when it has to move out of these legal boundaries, it has limits. 



“Planned Diplomacy” and China´s BRI connectivity scripts

Rumi Aoyama, Waseda University, Japan 


BRI under “planned diplomacy” – BRI´s policy package is Xi´s signature on foreign policy, a strategy through which China tries to solve structural problems in its domestic problems and to increase influence in foreign policy. It is a combination of planning and mobilization to promote foreign policy whereby the central leadership formulates foreign strategy from abroad perspective and allocates resources strategically, and the relevant domestic ministries and local governments strictly implement the foreign strategy as formulated by the central government. It´s been implemented in a totally different way than how it has usually developed policies inside China. It has a top-down design, with a lot of local autonomy and which coordinates policies. 


Top-level design of this strategy: “strategic planning and overall unity”. To ensure that all actors involved in the implementation of this policy act according to the top-level design, the Leadership of the CCP in the foreign policy realm as well as the Part Committee leading group for foreign affairs are directly involved. 


Sino-Russian relations: both countries are now proposing projects in different fields like energy and infrastructure. Yet it is not all successful if we look at diplomatic relations with the West. 


BRI has changed its nature: from construction/reconstruction of shredded countries, to investment for the future. And so has changed its narrative. The launch of BRI is a Chinese functional emulation of Japan. 



The Japanese Script for building the “Indo-Pacific” region: liberal or geopolitical? 

Hidetoshi Nakemura, Waseda University, Japan


Graph on “which region is frequently mentioned” in Japanese newspapers: the “Indo-Pacific” concept is analysed.

Results of the analysis: Japan has been successful in promoting the new concept of “Indo-Pacific” since 2016. The Japanese script for building this region has not necessarily been liberal but rather realist, because Japan has not carried out a human rights diplomacy in this region: for instance, Japan would not yet become as vocal about what happened in Myanmar, Xingjian and other Asian spots as the Europeans or US governments are. This Japanese script was rather launched as a reaction to China and the BRI: it may simply be an expression of Japanese geopolitical interests. 

The key for the success of this concept has been that Japan shares with US and Europe (at least some of) geopolitical interests.

The regional concept of Trans-Pacific replaced the one of East-Asia (also thanks to the pivot to Asia of the US by Obama´s administration in 2009-2010). After Trump's victory, Japan found it even more necessary to promote new regional concepts of “Indo-Pacific '' to share with the US administration. 

Finally, this concept of “Indo-Pacific” is surely also a security concept, because it still has threats from its neighbours (China and Korea). 

Important: this concept of “Indo-Pacific” may remember other countries of the colonial past of Japan. This is why Japan asked the US to make joint efforts to promote this new concept.  



Similarities and Differences between Japanese, Chinese and European connectivity scripts in the Indo-Pacific

Paul Bacon, Waseda University, Japan


General ideas: there is the concept of “connectivity power”, of “Developmental connectivity” (Chalmers Johnson) which means that the state intervenes when the economic or social mechanisms struggle, supporting security and enhancing competitiveness. EU-Japan-India could come up with a trialogue on connectivity, or connect with middle power countries like Korea and Australia, as well as the US (Blue Dot, B3W). 


The EU and Japan converge on quality, efficiency, transparency and legitimacy in their liberal scripts: yet they “converge from different places”, they have different sociological connectivity models hence this convergence may work only for small-scale integrated initiatives. 


Japan-China alignment: they both practice developmental and both are connectivity “superpowers” (the EU in contrast is a middle power in connectivity). China emulates Japan in this aspect and is particularly interested in what happens because it wants to respond to the EU “quality-based counter offensive”. 

Both Japan and China engage in “inverted competition”: norm-sending states compete to promote connectivity norms which are most attractive to their recipients, who are visibly less powerful than them. Both China and Japan look very prepared and willing to engage in this kind of competition, it means that they both benefit from promoting and prosecuting connectivity scripts. 

The “powerless power” is another concept to indicate this “inverted competition”. 


1) several concrete criticisms of the BRI project emerge;

2) The BRI has freed the response of Japan and the EU with their own quality infrastructure and sustainable connectivity. 



  • 2019 Xi announced that China would have tightened the control and oversight over its projects
  • Xi started using Japanese phrases like “call for higher quality” and “greener” projects, and “zero tolerance” on corruption
  • The Chinese government is drafting rules for the use of the BRI label to protect its reputation. 




With Sook Jong Lee, Sung Kyun Kwan University, South Korea


-          Scope of BRI: to serve domestic interests rather than to export Chinese model abroad. China is focused on the party system in its own country, not abroad.

-          The Chinese top-down, centralised model relies on economy, the diplomatic effect of it should be studied further.

-          Japan doesn´t focus on human rights in its connectivity policy but not even the EU does, even if their narrative is different.

-          “Script” as an intriguing term indicating the organisation of a society (be it regional or even global), scripts can be defined through narratives, models, structures.



PANEL 6: Internet governance and Control

Moderation: Stefan Gosepath, Freie Universität 


Data protection and Norm diffusion

Yurika Ishii, National Defense Academy of Japan


Worldwide trends: data protection and data governance legislations are increasing. There are restrictions in the data transfer cross borders, in privacy protection and the use of big data needs to be regulated as well. At the same time, data are exchanged more worldwide.

How can these two opposite trends be reconciled?


  • US uses a free-trade embedded liberal mode, interoperable with privacy legislation;
  • EU puts interest on data privacy + Brussels effect yet it has only partially liberalized its market. Both EU and US share the respect of freedom of speech and human rights and the fact that private companies drive the data protection policies. 
  • China has state-censorship (data- and internet-safety law) + “Beijing effect” (building infrastructure needed, it expands its influence on countries). 
  • Japanese model of “free trade digital, but with trust” and a value-neutral approach. No core topic on the governance of data. 


Public Opinion on Social Credit: Trade-offs between personal gain, surveillance and data privacy in Southeast Asia

Wiebke Rabe, Institute of Chinese Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany 

Genia Kostka, Institute of Chinese Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany 


In research, little insights on how China's growing digital reach is perceived. Regarding the acceptance of this kind of technology, there is a trade off in privacy vs convenience and politics vs consumers behaviour. the acceptance of the SCS has been reduced to China only because it is the only country that has developed such a system.


Analysis of the perception of the Chinese Social scoring system (SCS), with a hypothetical scenario in which a Chinese firm applies this system abroad.

-          Region

Southeast Asia (area in which China has influence and furthermore it´s a focal area today amidst the US-China trade dispute and territorial tensions), and different countries in political and economic relations with China (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines). Thailand and Malaysia are aligned with China, the others more distanced. 

-          Data and Analysis

Quantitative survey held in March 2021, in the 4 countries above mentioned, 6,204 responses (ca. 1,500 per country). Analysis was run with R, descriptive statistics, ordered logistic regression.

-          Limitations

Respondents were biased towards young citizens with internet-connection.

-          Dependant variable

Would you accept or oppose if the technology for a credit scoring system is being provided by Chinese firms in the country you live in?

1= strongly oppose to 5= strongly accept.

-          Explanatory framework

Perception towards the domestic situation (own government's economic and social situation, trust in own government and institutions, government attitude towards China), perception towards China (risk or benefits), risk perception towards the technology of SCS (data privacy violation, risk of Chinese influence on behaviour, risk of repression) combine to create acceptance toward Chinese social credit system technology (SCS).

1)      Would you accept or oppose if a social credit system is being introduced in the country you live in? 

Results: Thailand 56% agree, Indonesia 45%. Citizens generally tend to accept having a SCS in their countries

2)      And if it was a Chinese firm to introduce it? 

Result: lower acceptance than if simply a system of SCS was introduced, but still around 40%.

-          Conclusion:

The internal (in particular economic) situation of the respondents´ country of the influences their answers. SCS risks matter as well, yet they are balanced with the economic gains. 

-          Implications

The appeal of Chinese technology is not a result of political means but of a perceived economic benefit. Aside from geopolitical aspects, it has to do with economic aspects and individual and micro-level aspects.


India's role in global internet governance. How changing beliefs alter foreign policy behavior and international alignment

Tobias Scholz, King's College London, UK/The National University of Singapore 


Before 2015, India was a strong advocate for an intergovernmental model of internet governance. During the 2015 WCIT summit, India announced her preference for a multi-stakeholder model of governance. 

-          Research questions

Why did India do so and how has this changed India´s role in international stage?

-          Theoretical framework

Foreign policy analysis; empirical focus on belief change; Legro´s two steps model of change. 

-          Findings

There was a domestic belief change, a normalisation of private sector interests also in the sector of foreign policy; growing trust in the US as partner; role change in the international system, with a stronger alignment with the West, a de-prioritisation of BRICS and IBSA; existing institutions were regarded as less important (for instance the UN); and finally, India supported still norms like global internet inclusion (Internet is a common global good) and data localisation. 

-          Conclusion

It is not an issue of sovereignty because data and the internet are sovereign, and not states anymore. “What´s sovereign is not the power of data but the use of data” (Minister Kapil Sibal, 2013).


Personal Data protection and the Asian script: the sustainability of the Asian script in light of the adequacy decision mechanism

Takao Suami, Waseda University, Japan


Remarkable contrast between the Asian and the European liberal script: 

  • different understanding of human rights and personal data protection
  • European script says that personal data protection is an autonomous human right, Asian says that personal data protection is part of the right to privacy tout court
  • constitutional differences 


Yet more obscure contrast between personal data protection laws: gradually, European and Asian laws have converged on this aspect. Why?

  • adequacy decisions under the GDPR (highest level of data protection around the globe)
  • how can Asian countries meet an equivalent level of personal data protection with the GDPR? 

Not only European, but also Asian countries have contributed to this liberal script. China is not opposed to the liberal script yet wants to overwrite it.

Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the liberal from the Asian script. At the same time, the Asian script cannot be the substitute of the liberal one, and vice versa. 


With Katharina Bluhm, Freie Universität Berlin/SCRIPTS, Germany


-          Regarding the liberal scripts, in which aspect is Japan specific and different from China? 

-          Are differences between EU and US not so important to be considered?

-          Dichotomy between liberal and Asian scripts, at the basis of which there is also a different understanding of human rights. 

-          Why is the idea of sovereignty for India today so important/not important?



Michael Zürn and Amrita Narlikar

Fil rouge of the conference:

  • There are many different scripts in Asia which are not identical or perfectly in line with the liberal scripts. this isn´t an evaluation of value rather a comparison. How do they influence other scripts? Is there an awareness in using an autonomous script, compared to other actors? Have scripts emerged independently, autonomously from each other, or have they diffused in regions and then modified into something else?
  • Contestation of the script, not of the liberal as such, but of the Asian sub-script. In which way these contestations are external/internal, are they contesting the implementation or rather the policy per se, to which extent is it a contestation of the use of this script and to which of the scripts in itself. Sometimes these contestations could take the form of creating alternatives, institutional alternatives or alternative paradigms. In this case it is clearly a contestation to the Western system.
  • Alternatives to the liberal script. Are there? We look very much at China. What are the commonalities among these alternatives? How do they play out and which kind of consequences do they have?