Vol. 3, No. 1, BOOK REVIEWS, Kai CHEN

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1



Energy and Non-Traditional Security (NTS) in Asia
Mely Caballero-Anthony, Youngho Chang, and Nur Azha Putra, eds.
Heidelberg: Springer, 2012, ix+121p.

Human Security: Securing East Asia’s Future
Benny Teh Cheng Guan, ed.
Dordrecht and New York: Springer, 2012, xiii+255p.

At present, non-traditional security issues have increasingly come to the forefront of international attention, due to the ongoing insecurity of populations and communities in Asian states. As a theme of global relevance, energy security in ASEAN nations has moved beyond issues of sovereignty and national security and gradually involved the well-being of their populations. From non-­traditional security perspectives, Energy and Non-Traditional Security (NTS) in Asia, is a timely collection of essays by well-chosen scholars who provide insightful explanations of the salient aspects of energy security in ASEAN, and advance a series of policy recommendations at international, national, and individual levels, many of which should be practical in the future.

As Mely Caballero-Anthony and Nur Azha Putra conclude, “security,” “stability,” and “sustainability” are three fundamental features of non-traditional security to energy security (Anthony et al., pp. 4–5). Discussing the negative impacts of energy security in ASEAN states, Maria Nimfa F. Mendoza examines the current situation of the energy markets, and explores the socio-economic impacts on them at both the microeconomic and macroeconomic levels. For instance, ASEAN states are burdened by considerable transportation costs, which lead to higher product costs than product prices. In the words of Fitrian Ardiansyah, Neil Gunningham, and Peter Drahos, transaction costs are another negative impact which requires “searching for, negotiating and enforcing contracts” (Anthony et al., p. 109). In this respect, Indonesia sets a good example: for the Indonesian government, there is a need to increase networked governance capacity on energy decision-­making, and “create a stable core of bureaucratic decision-makers” (Anthony et al., p. 111). As Ardiansyah, Gunningham, and Drahos suggest in accordance with the case of Indonesia, it is more practical to establish multilateral forums to coordinate central government, local government, investors, and developers.

However, should ASEAN states provide subsidies for energy security? Mendoza stresses that fuel subsidies will probably distort product prices and even lead to biases in resource allocation that move away from “labor-intensive industries” (Anthony et al., p. 69). For example, govern­mental subsidies for bio-fuel could reduce relevant efficiency in helping poor consumers, since a substantial portion of governmental subsidies do go to richer consumers. Furthermore, subsidies for fossil fuel would distort the corresponding pricing.

The contributors advance a series of recommendations for enhancing energy security. In the view of Youngho Chang and Swee Lean Collin Koh, market governance adds an essential dimension to policy recommendations for energy security. There are four approaches to governance: market, bilateral, trilateral, and unified governance. In the context of ASEAN states, market governance is the most applicable approach, which is defined as “an adequate and reliable supply of energy resources at reasonable prices” (Anthony et al., p. 28). Because this approach does not merely balance “the virtues of free market principles and government regulatory mechanisms” (Anthony et al., p. 25) and encourage investment in energy sources, but also meets the rising regional demand for energy. In the case of the Fukushima accident in Japan, Chang and Koh address adequate governance, environmental influences, and human costs in guaranteeing energy security. Moreover, based on the evaluations of energy diversity in ASEAN states, Youngho Chang and Lixia Yao explain that energy diversity can constitute another approach to ensuring energy security in ASEAN states, offering not only a variety of energy infrastructures, but also a variety of energy sources. In addition, Chang and Yao explain the essential regional initiatives relating to energy security, such as the ASEAN Power Grid, Trans ASEAN Gas Pipeline, and other forms of energy co-ordination in ASEAN. At a regional level, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is estimated to play a more important role in regional energy cooperation.

In addition to the collection above another timely volume has been produced, Human Security: Securing East Asia’s Future, edited by Benny Teh Cheng Guan, and provides further insights into the complexities and challenges of human security in East Asian states. This volume is divided into two parts and composed of 12 chapters. In Part One, the contributors explore human security in the context of state-society relations, especially the historical and political contexts of East Asian states, which tend to prioritize the human security of vulnerable populations (e.g. migrants) over state-centered security. The status of vulnerable populations in society is disempowered and unequal, due to the patriarchal policies and norms of East Asian states. Therefore, the contributors not merely focus on how to protect vulnerable populations from fear and abuse, but also analyze whether they can be free to make their own choices.

Based on the analysis of a case study in Vietnam, Kathleen A. Tobin highlights the fact that Vietnamese women’s reproductive choices have been affected by government family planning policy. Due to a surge in population and urban expansion, Vietnam’s government regards children as an economic detriment rather than as a benefit. As such, Tobin argues that the government is forcing a decline in population growth by “persuading Vietnamese couples to follow a one to two children policy” (Guan, p. 66). As Tobin suggests, if people cannot protect their freedom from wants (e.g. clothing, housing, medical care, food, and social services) and fears (discrimination, violence, and displacement), they will have to organize to force the government to respond to their needs.

Parallels abound in China. In the opinion of Anna Marie Hayes, Chinese men have been ­facing serious vulnerabilities to HIV transmission. The situation will not improve unless more NGOs and INGOs are allowed to participate with programs that prevent HIV transmission and address, gender-specific issues that are policy relevant and can be implemented in the near future.

Some contributors pay more attention to the tensions between human security and policy practice. Asuncion Fresnoza-Flot analyzes the case of “motherless families due to migration” in the Philippines. Fresnoza-Flot suggests that emigrating is still preferred by migrants’ families, yet due to both the Philippine government and the NGOs holding different opinions on how to protect these families, no concrete policy has been implemented to guarantee the interests of stakeholders (e.g. migrants and their families). In the case of North Korea refugees, Jaime Koh demonstrates that human security will face a serious dilemma in a state dominated by concerns of traditional security, that is, traditional security and non-transnational security concerns mutually exclude each other. As a result, very few of the human security issues will be addressed, nor will any political resolution be implemented. Jennryn Wetzler’s case analysis of human trafficking in Thailand underlines the tensions that exist between human security and policy practice. As ­Wetzler argues, Thai law enforcement indirectly encourages the sexual abuse of prostitutes (e.g. child sex tourism). Wetzler suggests that “indirect empowerment and community development initiatives coupled with traditional anti-trafficking efforts” will be more effective as specific countermeasures (Guan, p. 91).

In Part Two, contributors focus on human security issues and corresponding policy implications from a broader regional perspective. Some contributors debate the feasibility of politicization and de-politicization in resolving human security issues. Duncan McDuie-Ra analyzes the current situation and negative impacts of environmental insecurity in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam and addresses the opportunities and constraints of NGOs’ politicization of the causes of environmental insecurity. Ra concludes that although NGOs’ politicization and political patronage can be effective at district or regional government level, political patronage does not exclude the possibility of systematic corruption and the participation of women and young people. Will a depoliticized solution be more effective? In the case of ASEAN cooperation on climate change, Alfred Gerstl and Belinda Helmke recommend the depoliticized principle, which emphasizes “social and human development” (Gerstl 2010). In other words, it could be interpreted as “people-oriented notion of security” (Guan, p. 152). By contrast, ASEAN’s understanding is “still primarily based on the traditional neorealist state-centric view” (Guan, p. 152). Therefore, Gerstl and Helmke consider that a depoliticized principle would be the most obvious barrier to sufficient cooperation in ASEAN, even in those areas most affected by climate change: regional cooperation is limited to only the most affected countries. To explore an applicable approach to dealing with nontraditional security issues, Delphine Alles advances an insurance-like mechanism in a sovereignty-based context, “which requires that the risk should be random, the loss should be definite and the insurer should be able to cover the loss” (Guan, p. 158). However as Alles concedes, this approach might be most applicable within the context of natural disasters, effective in avoiding negotiations and compromises, and implementing concrete actions within a short-term period.

In addition to the debates on politicization and de-politicization, some contributors pay close attention to other aspects of strengthening human security. As Benny Teh Cheng Guan concludes, “human security is after all about the empowering of the people to take charge of matters that concern them” (Guan, p. 212). Either negotiations or proliferations of trade agreements (e.g. FTAs) should be “people-sensitive,” but not “state-induced.” Sangmin Bae explores scenarios where international human rights norms do not accord with the domestic values and practices of human rights. In the case of the death penalty in East Asian states, Bae points out that democratic stability and legitimacy will determine the extent a state would internalize an international norm of human security, which is different from domestic ones. In addition, as illustrated by the case of the rise in sea-levels of Pacific island states, Chih-Chieh Chou stresses the importance of scientific and political consensus in achieving a broader understanding of human security issues.

In the context of ASEAN states, the two volumes, proceeding from different perspectives, succeed in promoting debates on non-traditional security issues, and bridging the gap between theoretical research and policy practice on human security and energy security. However, if the two volumes take the nexuses between human security and energy security into account, they would be more inclusive as these cannot and should not be separated into distinct concerns.

In my view, the two volumes leave three essential intersections undiscussed. The first is low-intensity conflicts. Energy security in some ASEAN states has been threatened by low-intensity conflicts for quite some time. For example, in Northern Myanmar, the armed conflicts between ethnic-based militias and governmental armed forces have affected the energy infrastructures in Myanmar and the neighboring states (especially China). Secondly, piracy in the Malacca Straits, which is a critical non-traditional security threat to East Asian states. The approaches developed in both volumes (e.g. subsidies and market governance) have not comprehensively addressed the negative impacts of piracy as it plays out in the straits. Finally, there are still many tensions and conflicts over resources and territories in South China Seas. East Asian states’ efforts in maintaining their non-traditional security (e.g. energy security) have heightened tensions in South China Seas, which not only involve energy security of neighboring countries, but also affect fishermen’s personal security. It is worth noting that tensions are not limited to those between some ASEAN states and China, but also occur among ASEAN states: these are disputes over the international jurisdiction of the South China Seas which involve discussions over ownership among ASEAN states.

In short, both volumes do promote discussions on Asian non-traditional security. They are notable contributions to both energy security studies and human security research, and deserve a wide readership among academics, scholars, and students who are interested in international relations, human rights, and Asia studies.

Kai Chen 陈锴
College of Public Administration, Zhejiang University


Gerstl, Alfred. 2010. The Depolicitization and ‘ASEANization’ of Counter-Terrorism Policies in South-East Asia: A Weak Trigger for a Fragmented Version of Human Security. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies (ASEAS) 3 (1): 48–75.


DOI: doi.org/10.20495/seas.3.1_207