Pondering Anew RCEP’s Political Ramifications

Jean-Marc F. Blanchard and Wei Liang
Publication Date: 
January 15th, 2022

This Op-Ed appeared in The Diplomat in January 2022. It constitutes the third in a four-part series contemplating the consequences of RCEP. It focuses on the political implications of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which many assume will be an incontrovertible success for China in terms of its regional and global political standing, rule setting authority, and soft power. In line with earlier pieces in the series, this piece challenges conventional wisdom about RCEP’s effects. It rejects the assumption that RCEP will fuel China’s leadership status in Southeast Asia. In addition, it argues that it is problematic to conclude that RCEP will generate significant economic bonds that, in turn, automatically empower Beijing over other RCEP signatory countries such as Australia, Korea, or Vietnam. Furthermore, it points out that RCEP hardly demonstrates China’s position as a standard setter given inter alia some of the conventional neoliberal norms that pervade RCEP. There are several other problems with the conventional wisdom. One is the presumption that all RCEP related economic linkages will be positive. Another is the neglect of the fact that there are countervailing political issues such as the South China Sea which may dilute any positive political effects that flow for China from RCEP. Based upon its analysis, the piece also highlights a number of ramifications for policymakers and businesspeople.

This piece originally appeared as Jean-Marc F. Blanchard and Wei Liang, “Pondering Anew RCEP’s Political Ramifications,” The Diplomat, January 15, 2022, https://thediplomat.com/2022/01/pondering-anew-rceps-political-ramificat.... Copyright remains with the original holder.