World Politics

Research Article

Regional Organizations and International Politics: Japanese Influence over the Asian Development Bank and the UN Security Council

Daniel Yew Mao Lima1 and James Raymond Vreelanda2 *

a1 Department of Government at Harvard University, Email:

a2 Department of Government, Email:


Do regional hegemons use their power in regional organizations to advance foreign policy objectives? The authors investigate whether Japan leverages its privileged position at the Asian Development Bank (adb) to facilitate project loans for the elected Asian members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), a platform from which it seeks to shape global affairs. Analyzing panel data of adb loan disbursements to twenty-four developing member-countries from 1968 to 2009, the authors find that temporary UNSC membership increases adb loans, particularly during the post–1985 period, when Japan asserted greater influence in multilateral organizations. They estimate an average increase of over 30 percent. Because of Japan's checkered history of imperialism, the adb provides a convenient mechanism by which the government can obfuscate favors for politically important countries. Acting through this regional organization enables Japan to reconcile a low-key approach to foreign affairs with the contradictory goal of global activism–leading without appearing unilateralist.

Daniel Yew Mao Lim is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Government at Harvard University. He has worked for the World Bank and the Prime Minister's Office, Singapore. He is currently researching the determinants and consequences of foreign aid.

James Raymond Vreeland is an associate professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, where he also holds a joint appointment in the Department of Government. He is currently writing a book on the political economy of the United Nations Security Council.


*  This study has benefited from extraordinarily helpful comments from the anonymous reviewers, and we express our gratitude to them. We also greatly appreciate the numerous valuable suggestions of participants at conferences and seminars: the Fourth Annual Conference on the Political Economy of International Organizations, the Georgetown Political Economy Seminar (sponsored by the Mortara Center), the Georgetown University International Theory and Research Seminar (guitars), the Georgetown University 2011 class on International Organizations, and the Harvard International Relations Research Seminar. In particular, we thank Marc Busch, Mark Copelovitch, Christina Davis, Raj Desai, Sumit Ganguly, Michael Green, Adam Glynn, Joanne Gowa, Gary King, Christopher Kilby, Dalton Lin, Phillip Lipscy, Lisa Martin, Soumyajit Mazumder, Kevin Morrison, Connor Myers, Abraham Newman, Rich Nielsen, Jon Pevehouse, Hesham Sallam, Robert Schub, Beth Simmons, Yuko Shimada, Daniel Y. J. Tan, Dustin Tingley, Charles Udomsaph, Erik Voeten, and George L. C. Yin.