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Professor Easley’s study of Myanmar’s strategic decision to reform and open, co-authored with Dr. Jonathan Chow of the University of Macau, is the lead article in the September issue of Pacific Affairs.  Chow and Easley evaluate competing explanations for why Myanmar’s leaders pursued liberalizing reforms since late 2010 that have effectively shed the country’s “pariah” status.  Drawing on newly available materials and recent field interviews, the article examines whether the strategic decision was motivated by fears of sudden regime change, by socialization into the norms of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), or by the geopolitics of over-reliance on China.  The Myanmar case demonstrates how difficult it is for international actors to persuade a pariah state through sanctions or engagement, given a pariah regime’s intense focus on maintaining power.  However, reliance on a more powerful neighbor can reach a point where costs to national autonomy become unacceptable, motivating reforms for the sake of economic and diplomatic diversification.  The analysis should be of interest to students of authoritarian transitions, observers of Southeast Asian politics, and experts looking for comparative cases with North Korea.

*Jonathan T. Chow and Leif-Eric Easley, “Persuading Pariahs: Myanmar’s Strategic Decision for Reform and Opening,” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 89, No. 3 (September 2016), pp. 521-542;

About Experts

Leif-Eric Easley
Leif-Eric Easley

Visiting Research Fellow

Dr. Leif-Eric EASLEY is a visiting research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Dr. Easley is also an associate professor of International Studies at Ewha Womans University where he teaches international security and political economics. His research interests include contested national identities and changing levels of trust in the bilateral security relationships of Northeast Asia. He was the Northeast Asian History Fellow at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) at Stanford University. He was also a visiting scholar at Yonsei University and the University of Southern California’s Korean Studies Institute. He is actively involved in US-Asia dialogues (Track II diplomacy) with the Asan Institute and the Pacific Forum-Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Dr. Easley received his B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in government from Harvard University.