by Aya Adachi
Resources for Empirical Data
The People’s Republic of China shares borders with 14 states (excluding Hongkong and Macau). As China is one of the largest country in the world and second largest in Asia, its regional association is ambiguous and political. It can be rather challenging to geographically place China within a single “region”, understood as not geographically given, but socially constructed, made and remade through interactions. While the coastal areas can be unambiguously regarded as “East Asian”, the relative and cultural proximity of China’s western (Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia) and southern (Yunnan, Guangxi) parts to Central and Southeast Asia are close. It is therefore interesting to map how China positions itself regionally.
Particularly for those interested in studying the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it can be useful to use resources from other regional projects and their associated research institutions along with independent regional research institutions. A number of projects (e.g. infrastructure plans) have been initiated before the BRI has been announced and have since been incorporated into the BRI. It can therefore be valuable and more accurate to include regional cooperation that are spatially smaller in scope and have existed longer into studies of the BRI. Not only is reliable data on the BRI scarce, but it is also very challenging or nearly impossible to find data from a single source for the BRI as a whole – since the full geographic reach of the project remains open and vague. Furthermore, providing data on the BRI as a whole is complicated by the fact that it relies on independent and standardized reporting and collection of data from the associated countries. Needless to say, although these resources can be very useful for BRI cross-country-comparison analysis, they should also be used with caution as the methods of data collection may differ widely.
The following kinds of resources will be listed below:
- regional organizations or cooperation frameworks
- research institutions,
- media outlets with a regional focus
Regional Organizations or Regional Cooperation Frameworks
Official documents, reports, publications, information on ongoing and previous projects
- ASEAN-China Center
- ASEAN Regional Forum
- Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
- Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC)
- Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)
- Greater Tumen Initiative (GTI)
- Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
- Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS)
Research Organizations with a Regional Focus
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Asian Development Bank is a regional development bank established in 1966 to promote social and economic development in Asia. Regional Cooperation and Integration was promoted from the early beginning but efforts were dramatically increased since the 1990s with an official ADB Regional Cooperation Policy constituting one of the main focus areas. The annual Asian Economic Integration Report published by the ADB, is one of the most comprehensive publications on the economic development of the region. The Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) publishes books, working papers, policy briefs that are helpful for the study of East Asian Regionalism.
Asian Regional Integration Center (ARIC)
ARIC was initially founded following the Asian financial crisis as a technical assistance of the ADB to monitor recover and vulnerabilities as well as policy recommendations. ARIC keeps track of all news and publications related to regional integration and cooperation on its website. ARIC’s comprehensive database includes features, such as general economic and financial indicators of the region, daily market watch, integration indicators, as well as an overview of all bilateral and plurilateral FTAs that include at least one of ADB’s 48 regional members as signatory.
Economic Research Intitute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA)
An international organization established among 16 governments at the East Asia Summit in 2007, ERIA works closely with the ASEAN Secretariat, researchers and research institutes from East Asia to contribute to allocate analytical research and policy recommendations. In addition, ERIA’s activities are aimed at capacity building in strengthening policy research capacities of less developed countries. Publications by ERIA include various formats, such as books, discussion papers, policy briefs. ERIA, together with UNCTAD, tracks all updates in matters of non-tariff measures to foster transparency in economic integration.
Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia (ERINA)
ERINA is a Japanese institution that conducts research, collects and disseminates information on Northeast Asian economies. Its aim is to contribute to the formulation and development of the integrated Northeast Asia Economic Subregion, and to the advancement of an international society through this research.
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) Yusof Ishak Institute
A research institute based in Singapore aimed at “the study of socio-political, security, and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment. ISEAS offers a wide range of different publication formats, such as journal articles, ISEAS Perspective papers, and multiple working paper series.
Mekong Institute (MI) is an intergovernmental organization founded by the six member countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), to support implement and facilitate integrated human resource development (HRD), capacity building programs and development projects related to regional cooperation and integration. As an intergovernmental organization it is managed by GMS national and international staff and supported by international academics and subject-matter experts and consultants. MI provides databases and publications on specific thematic issues concerning the Greater Mekong region.
Reconnecting Asia is particularly interesting for those who are looking for an overview of BRI infrastructure projects. Reconnecting Asia is an initiative by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) and maps new linkages – roads, railways, and other infrastructure – that are reshaping economic and geopolitical developments across Eurasia. The project aims to fill Asia’s infrastructure-information gap, by carefully curating all relevant data. In addition to the highly developed visualization tool that maps all planned and implemented projects Reconnecting Asia also provides analysis on recent trends. One of the most interesting analysis are the mappings of competing geoeconomic visions (including ASEAN, China, EU, India, Iran, Japan, Russia).
United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS)
UNU-CRIS, based in Bruges, serves as a think tank for the UN, with particular links to the UN bodies dealing with regional integration. It works in partnership with institutes and initiatives throughout the world that are concerned with issues of integration and cooperation.
Media outlets with a regional focus
The Diplomat provides analysis and commentary on events occurring in Asia. Its expert coverage includes topics such as, geo-political trends throughout the Asia Pacific, defence and intelligence, as well as environment, human security and development. Categories are regionally divided into Central, East, South and Southeast Asia as well as Oceania. In addition, The Diplomat also has sub-categories that put a special emphasis on reporting on the ASEAN (called ASEAN Beat) and on the New Silk Road (Crossroads Asia).
East Asia Forum
A platform for analysis and research the East Asia Forum covers politics, economics, business, law, security, international relations and society relevant to public policy, centred on the Asia Pacific region. It consists of an online publication and a quarterly magazine, East Asia Forum Quarterly, which aim to provide clear and original analysis from the leading minds in the region and beyond.
Part II of Mapping China’s Participation and Contribution in Asian Regional Cooperation will recommend academic readings – books and journal articles dedicated to comparative regionalism as well as East Asia and China-specific regionalism.
 For a literature recommendation on definition of region, regionalisation and regionalism see part 2, resources of academic scholarship on regionalism.
 Only included are those in which China is an official member.