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Tumen River Area Development Programme: Frustrated Micro-Regionalism ..

Christopher W. Hughes

CSGR Working Paper No. 57/00

August 2000




Since its inception in the early 1990s, the Tumen River Area Development Programme (TRADP) has come to embody many of the hopes and frustrations of micro-regionalism in Northeast Asia in the post-Cold War period. On the one hand, the project has been seen as a means to utilise economic co-operation as a means to drive political and security co-operation. But on the other, ambitious hopes for the project have been frustrated by the slow progress of investment and economic integration amongst the localities and nation-states of the Northeast Asia micro and sub-regions. This working paper argues that the key variable in explaining the frustrations of micro-region building in the case of TRADP is a mismatch of the twin forces of regionalisation and regionalism. For even though the TRADP may be predicated on the belief that it can serve as a micro-regional focus for the territorial contiguities and economic complementarities of the surrounding states in order to serve as a springboard for wide regional integration, just as equally it has served the reverse function as a micro-regional focus and intensifier of competing territorial claims and the political disputes of the major states, and thereby, somewhat ironically, acted to actually undermine the process of regional integration. The end result has been that TRADP as a potential micro-region has also fallen victim to becoming a microcosm of the political rivalries in the region.

This working paper chronicles the evolution of TRADP, and analyses its supposed economic rationale and the types of supra-state, local and non-state actors pushing for its advancement, but also the political problems amongst the central governments of the region which have undercut its progress to date. The conclusion of the working paper summarises the lessons of TRADP for micro-regional processes elsewhere in the world, and considers the possibility of TRADP's success in the future as the Northeast Asia political and security scenarios begin to change in the new century.

Keywords: Tumen River Area Development Programme, Regionalisation, Regionalism, Micro-regionalism, Japan, PRC, Russian Far East, DPRK, ROC, Mongolia, UNDP.

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