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Experts rethink Northeast Asian international relations

Author  :  CHU GUOFEI     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-10-17

“What I care about most now is how to deal with this world. This is a conundrum. Rather than delivering a report, I would say I am more talking about my troubles here, discussing with you to look for a better solution,” said Togo Kazuhiko, director of the Institute for World Affairs at Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan and a visiting professor at East China Normal University, at a recent international symposium on East Asian wisdom and Northeast Asian relations.

At the symposium, jointly organized by the School of History at Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) and the Institute for World Affairs at Kyoto Sangyo University, scholars from China and Japan exchanged ideas on the impact of East Asian civilization in international relations, social construction and economic development in Northeast Asia. At the international relations panel, Kazuhiko and Li Xuetao, dean of the School of History and director of the Institute of Global History at BFSU, discussed international relations in East Asia.

Kazuhiko said that at the end of the Cold War, the United States led the rest of the world in politics and economy. After entering the 21st century, the United States faces two major challenges. One is the challenge from the Islamic world after the September 11 attacks of 2001, and the other is the challenge since the subprime mortgage crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2007 and 2008. The latter has exerted tremendous influence on the US economy. In addition, there is a very significant change, which is not a challenge, but the status quo: the rise of China. China has been very active towards achieving the great rejuvenation of the nation.

He went on to say that another great change in the current world is the Trump administration in the United States. Donald Trump is an unpredictable president. However, whether it be his supporters or non-supporters, the Democrats or the Republicans, their views on China are mostly consistent. The relationship between the United States and China has gradually changed, and differences and frictions have increased.

Since the spring of 2018, the United States has initiated a trade war against China. The size and nature of the trade friction between the United States and China, however, are very different from those of the past and have reached a new height in light of the digital revolution, Kazuhiko concluded. The digital revolution has changed many of the concepts we are familiar with today. For example, the digital revolution has caused subversive changes to modern warfare, bringing about not only more precise weapons, but the emergence of cyber warfare, which is capable of paralyzing a state without any weapons.

Finally, Kazuhiko expressed his hope that a better way to solve problems can be found in East Asian wisdom, a way with more consensus, a language for friendly negotiation and active communication. Starting from the German sinologist Otto Franke’s observations of the Tripartite Intervention, a diplomatic intervention by Russia, Germany and France in 1895 over the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed between Japan and the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), Li shed light on the East Asian international order from a historical perspective. Li explored the strategic interests of the Liaodong Peninsula, and the strategic considerations of the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany and Japan, the contests and differences between them, and their calculations pursuing a sphere of influence in China at that time.

Li pointed out that the redistribution of influence and space by the powers in modern history has continued to affect matters today. Today, we must learn from history and explore more of its contemporary relevance. Over the years, people have become more familiar with the Western perspective in understanding and thinking about the world. How to use the wisdom of East Asia to transcend Franke’s earlier understanding of the order in East Asia is very important.

Editor: Yu Hui

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