Themes and projects

The LeidenAsiaCentre organises its research projects within wider themes. This allows projects to deal with specific questions in the context of related projects. In 2019 and 2020, the LeidenAsiaCentre will focus on ‘connectivity’, meaning processes that link people, things, finances, and ideas across different spaces. This general theme is subdivided into three sub-themes: ‘Urban Connectivities & Connectedness’, ‘Regional Connectivities’, and ‘Intercontinental Connectivities’. Click here to find our complete research agenda.

Theme 1: Urban Connectivities & Connectedness

Asia is urbanising at an unprecedented speed. Rural regions are transformed into urban environments, while metropolises are absorbing large numbers of migrants. New forms of governance are emerging, as actors tackle the urban challenges they now face. One way forward has been to turn urban spaces into ‘smart cities’, which includes deploying digital data to improve urban services, communication, transportation and sustainability.

This raises three important questions about urbanisation in the 21st century that the Leiden Asia Centre will explore: 1) How do stakeholders in urban economics and politics use smart designs and advanced ICT to govern the city? 2) What ideas inform the smart city project? 3) How does the smart city reshape rural and urban spaces?

To explore these dynamics, the LAC will facilitate research on the following topics:

Creative Industries and Start-Ups in Asia

E-Governance and the Rise of Asia’s Smart Cities

Creating Urban Circular Economies in Asia

The Politics of Urban Architecture and Smart Spaces

On-going projects in this theme:


Theme 2: Regional Connectivities

As some of the enthusiasm surrounding the ‘Asian Century’ makes way for detailed, sober assessments of intra-regional dynamics, actors in the region have tried to come to grips with their role in 21st Century Asia. Australia is repositioning itself as an important node in what it calls the ‘Indo-Pacific’, which stretches from Northeast Asia, looping around the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, to the Southern Pacific. China is heavily involved in trade, diplomacy, and security throughout the region, for instance through its Belt and Road Initiative; yet its activities have recently caused a backlash among potential partners, leading to new initiatives and alliances, involving, for instance, Japan and India.

Within these shifting dynamics, how should we think about regional security and prosperity in Asia? How are actors like nation-states and private corporations challenged or supported in their regional efforts by non-traditional actors? What are the prospects for peace, human security, and sustainable development in the region?

To explore these dynamics, the LAC will facilitate research on the following topics:

Asian Responses to Chinese Diplomacy and China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Intercity Diplomacy in Asia: Refugees and the Right to Sanctuary

Tech Innovation in the Wake of US-Chinese Competition

On-going projects in this theme:

Theme 3: Intercontinental Connectivities

Expanding its existing focus on Dutch-East Asian interactions, the LAC will take the logical next steps to explore how Asian societies and actors are positioning themselves within near-global networks, especially in relation to European partners. Asian-European relations are quickly becoming the new backbone of global networks, due to the retreat of an increasingly inward-looking United States government, and China’s increasing role in the world, embodied by its Belt and Road Initiative, which reaches east from China across the Eurasian landmass and into Europe, but also stretches to Africa and South America.

In the wake of these transformations, we are witnessing a profound change in traditional trade routes, investment channels, diplomatic ties, and transnational collaboration. This raises important questions: How do global concerns connect Europe and Asia in a multi-polar world, and how will EU-Asia relations shape global governance systems? What effect will the US-China trade war have on the relation between the EU and its many partners in the Asian region? Are Connectivities between Asia and other regions simply a reflection of well-established geopolitical dynamics, or do they confront us with a new form of ‘geopolitics 2.0’ that require an update of how we think about global politics? How will smaller countries position themselves vis-à-vis each other and Europe, as China steps up its own efforts to shape global governance in an interconnected world?

To explore these dynamics, the LAC will facilitate research on the following topics:

Cybersecurity: European and Chinese Perspectives

The US-China Trade War: Effects on EU-Asia Relations and Global Institutions

The EU and the Indo-Pacific: Linkages, Opportunities, Challenges

Corporate Social Responsibility in EU-Vietnam Relations

Connecting China: New Relations in Africa and South America

On-going projects in this theme: