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Asian Crisis and Political Change: Discourses on Political Reform in East and Southeast Asia

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Beyond the economic dimension of the crisis in East and Southeast Asia in the late 1990s there is also a political dimension which has generated a discourse on questions of political reform, change and democratisation. The repercussions of the economic crisis have contributed to a fresh political discourse, which pushed forward new and sometimes unexpected suggestions for change. In this article, state and society are not regarded as spheres separated from each other but, rather, as interconnected spheres. This interconnection is also the vantage point for an analysis of the intellectual discourses within a given society, which are seen as markers of change in the political setting. Case studies of four countries of the region - China, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam - reveal developments that can be typified in two ways. First, there is an emphasis on the extent to which local experiences of political culture can contribute to democratisation processes as well as on the way in which destabilising factors in democratisation processes can be absorbed by introducing local instruments of political participation. Secondly, whilst there are clear parallels in this respect between all the countries in the region, forms of transnational exchange and discourse are growing. International influence and pressure stemming from globalisation have at the same time tangibly improved discourse opportunities in authoritarian states in the region.


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