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Alice Ba - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Alice Ba

Associate Chair and Professor, International Relations and Comparative Politics | University of Delaware


Prof. Ba researches US-China-Southeast Asia relations; institutional cooperation/competition in Asia; and regionalism.




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2017 UD Fulbright Lecture Series: Alice Ba ASEAN and the Return of Geopolitics to the Indo-Pacific What’s so special about Asian security? Dealing with economics and institutions In the Wake of the RCEP: Asia-Pacific or Indo-Pacific?




Alice D. Ba is professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware. She studies the structures, processes, and systemic effects of regionalism and regional integration; relations between Southeast Asian states and major powers, especially China and the United States; and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Recent work investigates the politics and effects of competing US, China, and ASEAN initiatives; regional multilateralism; ASEAN’s institutional legitimation challenges and strategies in response to Myanmar and other challenges; China as a leading power; and the role of strategic narratives in China-Southeast Asia relations. The author of (Re)Negotiating East and Southeast Asia: Region, Regionalism, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Stanford 2009), she has received US Fulbright awards for work in Beijing and Singapore and serves on several editorial boards. She teaches courses on Southeast Asia's world relations and development, the international relations of Asia, Chinese foreign policy, and comparative regionalisms and served as director of Asian Studies at the University of Delaware from 2009-2014.

Areas of Expertise (6)

International Relations of East and Southeast Asia


Southeast Asian Politics

Chinese Foreign Policy & Relations

International Relations

Comparative Regionalisms

Media Appearances (1)

ASEAN Impact: Ideas, Identities and Integration

The Diplomat  online


Insights from Alice Ba.

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Articles (5)

Diversification's legitimation challenges: ASEAN and its Myanmar predicament Get access Arrow

International Affairs

2023 International organizations (IOs) confront complex legitimation challenges with the diversification of audiences and actors asserting judgment and input. Drawing on Lenz and Söderbaum's agents-audience-environment (AAE) conceptualization of legitimation strategies, this discussion advances understandings of how diversification affects IO legitimation and legitimation strategies. Particular attention is given to their special sensitivity to internal IO diversification processes whose constitutive changes affect both the agent and audience ends of strategy. It especially highlights three commonly found sources of internal IO diversification: domestic change, new membership and new purposes. Providing illustration is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its 30+ year-long efforts to defend and legitimate the organization's choices vis-à-vis its most internationally criticized member, Myanmar, and to manage the delegitimating effects of association.

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Vietnam's Cautious Response to China's Belt and Road Initiative: The Imperatives of Domestic Legitimation

Asian Perspective

2021 China's Belt and Road may be China's "Project of the Century," but for Vietnam it encapsulates an age-old predicament, namely, how best to respond to the mix of opportunity and challenge represented by its very large neighbor next door. This article finds in Vietnam's response a mix of caution and engagement reflective of Vietnam's distinctive positionality on the asymmetry-authority framework outlined in the introductory essay. It gives special attention to how ongoing maritime disputes intensify the challenge on both asymmetry and especially, domestic authority dimensions, but also how Vietnam's response to BRI illustrates elites' dynamic adjustments between four key sources of domestic legitimacy—welfare, anticorruption, nationalism, and autonomy. While the domestic nationalist challenge posed by China largely explains Vietnam's caution and ambivalence about BRI, these tensions also make BRI's diplomatic and political functions and thus, Vietnam's engagement more important beyond the economic opportunities it may offer.

Multilateralism and East Asian transitions: the English School, diplomacy, and a networking regional order

International Politics

2020 This article traces East Asia’s evolving multilateralisms and role in transitioning East Asia away from “US hub-and-spokes” bilateralism toward a more networked system of security arrangements. Drawing on the English School, it argues for revisiting multilateralism’s diplomatic foundations as a way to direct attention to (1) the practice’s region-specific content and (2) the ways that multilateralism has introduced system-transitioning changes that include system-level dynamics associated with membership, actor hood, and the types of security at stake. The result is a more complex security environment and normative context that calls for more multifaceted responses from all, including the United States and China whose current multilateral diplomacies both draw from and challenge the multilateral norms and practices that have been created. Theoretically, re-attention to multilateralism’s diplomatic foundations also offers the English School an opportunity to make more distinctive contributions to ongoing debates about East Asia’s networking processes and security arrangements.

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ASEAN’s constructed dichotomies: the ongoing need for complexity-sensitive research agendas

The Pacific Review

2019 How best to assess ASEAN as a collective enterprise are longstanding. Producing often polar assessments of the organization and its activities, the question has been a recurrent one in the scholarship on ASEAN and any retrospective on the organization. Stubbs’ (2019) article does not resolve the question, but it does offer ways to make sense of the debate. It also identifies ways forward with its identification of analytic criteria by which ASEAN’s performance as an international organization has been assessed. How well his two-camp categorization of the literature captures the state of play, however, can be debated. It is also not without potential costs.

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China's "Belt and Road" in Southeast Asia: Constructing the Strategic Narrative in Singapore

Asian Perspective

2019 China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is viewed by most as symbolic of a new era of Chinese initiative and ambition. But while much attention has focused on how the BRI fits into China's—and specifically Xi Jinping's—grand narrative of national rejuvenation, less has been said about regional narratives—that is, the narratives of China's target audiences. Toward addressing this oversight, I consider the case of Singapore in relation to BRI. Specifically, I give attention to strategic narratives that offer analytic windows into the complex relationships being negotiated between China and Southeast Asian states. Strategic narratives, as instruments of policy, also play roles in constructing the strategic space in which BRI enters, with implications for the opportunities and constraints faced by China in Southeast Asia.

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Accomplishments (3)

Fulbright Specialist Award. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University (professional)


University of Delaware Center for Global and Area Studies/Institute for Global Studies Research Grant (professional)


Fulbright Research Fellowship, Renmin University (professional)


Education (3)

University of Virginia: PhD, Government and Foreign Affairs 2000

University of Virginia: MA, Foreign Affairs 1993

Pomona College: BA, Government 1990

Affiliations (9)

  • Routledge Asian Security Studies : Series Editor
  • Stimson Center Southeast Asia Forum : Advisory Board
  • Contemporary Southeast Asia : International Advisory Board
  • Asia Policy
  • Asian Politics and Policy
  • Contemporary Politics
  • Australian Journal of International Affairs
  • Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs
  • Routledge Studies on Comparative Asian Politics Series

Event Appearances (7)

Southeast Asian Responses to Great Power Rivalry: Implications for US-Southeast Asia Relations

(2023) Southeast Asia in a World of Strategic Competition: Assessing Agency and Options  Putrajaya, Malaysia

Great Power Rivalry and the Role of Middle Powers

(2023) Europe’s Foreign and Security Policy Webinar Series  Philippines

Institutional Competition and Transition: Positioning Southeast Asia and ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific

(2022-2023 Lecture Series) Institute of East Asian Studies, University of Duisberg-Essen  Online

China From Its Southern Periphery: Opportunities and Contradictions

(2021-2022) Foreign Service Institute, US Department of State  Online

Legitimacy and Global IR

(2022) Future Directions in Global Legitimacy Research  Stockholm, Sweden

Multiple Audiences, Institutional Legitimation Strategies, and A Changing ASEAN

(2021-2022) Practices of Legitimation in International Organizations Workshop, Legitimation of Regional Organisation (LegRO) Project  German Institute of Global and Area Studies and University of Gothenburg

ASEAN and Asian Crossroads: Comparing Conditions of Institutional Change

(2021) Nanyang Technological University, Singapore  Online