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East Asian Security Roundtable Series 2008




“Election Years, Domestic Factors, and Security Dynamics in East Asia”

Beijing, June 1-2, 2008

Sponsored by

Center for International & Strategic Studies

Peking University


Professor Wang Jisi, Director of CISS/PKU

In his opening remarks, Professor Wang Jisi, Chair of the SIS and Director of the CISS, briefly addressed the objectives and administrative aspects of the newly established Center. As Professor Wang stated, the Center aims at enhancing academic and policy research in the fields of international politics, security, and national strategies. Its emphasis is to provide analyses of China’s changing international environment and the major powers’ international strategies, and to publish or submit policy-relevant, future-oriented works based on these analyses.

Professor Wang further pointed out that the Center is a research facility that is administered by the University’s systems. Although the Center currently acquires most of its funding from sources such as foundations and other private entities, the Center is in the process of obtaining sponsorship from the Ministry of Education by incorporating government funded institutions.

Professor Zhang Guoyou, Vice President of Peking University (Welcoming Address)

Professor Zhang extended his sincere welcome to everyone participating the symposium on “Election Year, Domestic Factors and the Security Dynamic in East Asia” on behalf of Peking University and its affiliated Center for International & Strategic Studies.

Professor Zhang emphasized the point that the Security issues in East Asia have been drawing attention both at home and abroad. As he stated, China’s future depends on cooperation with other East Asian countries, as well as stability and peace throughout the region. Therefore, he expressed his wish for the sharing of the ideas and wisdom of respective participants during the day-and-a-half roundtable.

Professor Zhang also stated that owing to the support of many, the Center has been growing steadily and making considerable contributions. The main objective of Peking University to establish the Center was to buildup a high-quality think tank, capable of generating reliable international strategic studies that will provide a strong intellectual basis of support for the Chinese government to develop better diplomatic relations, and to commit to greater responsibility as a respected member of the international community.

Under the guidance of the Center’s director, Professor Wang Jisi, and Executive Deputy Director Yuan Ming, the Center has been performing significant tasks within the year since its establishment. These tasks have included “conducting seven important research projects for the Chinese government”, establishing firm academic relationships toward participation in collaborative research projects, and educating students of institutions such as the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and, more importantly, making a scholarly contribution in publishing a Peking University collection series of International Strategic Studies, China’s international Strategy Review, and various articles and commentaries.

Professor Zhang expressed his wish that the East Asian roundtable would spark another round of scholarly inquiry.

First Session (9:00-10:45)

“Changing Domestic Politics in East Asian Countries”

Chair Prof. Wang Jisi CISS/PKU

Speakers Prof. Akihiko Tanaka University of Tokyo

Prof. Robert Ross Boston College

Prof. James Tang University of Hong Kong

Prof. Andrei Lankov Kookmin University

Prof. Chu Shulong Tsinghua University

During the first roundtable session chaired by Professor Wang, the five scholars presented their ideas on the subject of “Changing Domestic Politics in East Asian Countries”.

During the session, Professor Tanaka first explained the structural aspects of domestic politics in Japan. He argued that there are two layers of complex Japanese political structures that must be understood -- the long- and short-term levels. On the long-term structural level, one must understand the emergence of the two-party system in Japan. Although Japan boasts a multi-party system, essentially there are two influential parties active on the political stage. More accurately, the dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is the peculiar feature of Japanese politics. Five factions within the LDP dominate the entire system. The major opposition party, the DPJ, is increasingly gaining in importance as it won a substantial number of seats in the upper house. However, the effective disappearance of contrasting ideologies from Japanese politics is worthy of notice. Mirroring the trend, the authority of the Prime Minister has been reinforced as strong, independent bureaucratic ministries specialize in their purviews.

On the other hand, on the short-term level, the Japanese political system is currently suffering from the divided-government problem. Due to the historic recent electoral defeat of Abe and the control of the upper house by the DJP, it is difficult to forge and expedite any significant policy ratification. For example, by the prerogative of the upper house, the members rejected the Fukuda-appointed governor of the Bank of Japan. In addition, the so-called “Grand Coalition” proposed by the Prime Minister was also rejected by the DPJ. For that reason, despite the strengthened power of the Prime Minister, passing any initiative is somewhat difficult. Nevertheless, Fukuda faces the dilemma of calling for a new election due to the lack of public support that ranges from fifteen to twenty percent. Therefore, for the foreseeable coming few months, it is likely that Fukuda will focus his attention on foreign affairs.

In his presentation regarding local actors and great powers, Professor Ross briefly touched upon changing political phenomena in Northeast Asia. He emphasized the point that the course of East Asian security affairs and the prospects for regional stability may depend increasingly on the domestic social, economic and political developments in critical countries. Domestic developments in Japan, South Korea, China and the United States will necessarily affect the regional distribution of power, the management of regional conflicts, and the prospects for stability.

According to Professor Ross, Japan faces both domestic and demographic problems. Long-term domestic conditions will constrain Japanese regional activism. Just as Japan is becoming a “normal” power more engaged in international security affairs, and just as Japanese nationalism makes regional cooperation more difficult, Japan’s domestic economic conditions will limit Japan’s emergence as an independent strategic power. In this context, Japan has focused its emerging international activism on support of the US.-Japan alliance rather than the pursuit of an independent international role. This is a constructive contribution to regional stability.

South Korean domestic developments are also significant and suggest a positive trend in regional affairs. The greatest challenges that South Korea faces are accommodating a rising China and managing North Korea belligerence without destabilizing its traditional cooperative relationships with Japan and the United States. However, the transitions in relationships are conducive to stability on the Korean peninsula.

In contrast to Japan and Korea, China’s greatest challenge is to manage its own rise – to take advantage of its improving capabilities to expand its regional influence without contributing to regional instability that could undermine its long-term economic development. Nonetheless, the ongoing economic rise seems to be increasingly accompanied by growing popular nationalism, and the Chinese leadership seems to be increasingly reliant on appeals to nationalism for political legitimacy. Thus, the future primary challenge for Chinese leaders is to maintain economic growth while constraining nationalism. In historical perspective, the East Asian power transition has been extraordinarily peaceful and cooperative. Should the region be unable to sustain this positive trend, the likely source of change will be challenges from domestic politics in China and the United States and the consequences for great-power relations and regional stability.

During the roundtable, Professor James Tang introduced the new notion of “non-traditional security”. Generally, non-traditional security refers to non-military sources of security aspects such as environment, food, migration, public space, and transnational crime. Therefore, like the traditional notion of security, it includes transnational scope, yet lies outside the norm of military challenges. One notable point is that if non-traditional security is mismanaged, people are affected in greater far numbers than in traditional military conflicts. Although there have been both positive and negative empirical developments, the trends are rather encouraging toward cooperation in managing non-traditional security problems.

Professor Andrei Lankov introduced the peculiar aspects of domestic political background in People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (hereafter North Korea). Since the early 1990s, there have been two approaches to North Korea in the international community. One approach has been favored by right-wing conservative groups in the US and, to a somewhat lesser extent, South Korea. It is based on assumption that the North Korean state is on the verge of collapse, and that this collapse should be seen as a welcome development and perhaps even to be accelerated. Supporters of another, far more popular approach believe that the North Korean state will eventually emulate two other ex-Leninist states of East Asia, China and Vietnam, and begin reforming itself. They assume that if Pyongyang is treated gently, sooner or later its leaders will see the light and accept some market-oriented reformism more or less similar to the Chinese gaige or Vietnamese doimoi. Such reforms, it is hoped, will lead to explosive economic growth which will help to make North Korea less dangerous internationally and will also improve the harsh living conditions of its destitute populace.

However, Professor Lankov makes the point that North Korea will not simply open its doors at any time soon. North Korean leaders cannot be expected to risk the stability of the country by engaging in a grand “market socialism” experiment. The Pyongyang bureaucrats obviously believe that reforms are likely to hasten the end of the regime and to spell their own end.

In his analysis of regional and domestic political situation of China, Professor Chu Shulong made three important points.

1. Domestic Politics in China: No Major Change on Mainland

2. Political Change in Taiwan

3. Political Changes in Other Countries and Implications to China

According to Professor Chu, China has gone through a number of major domestic events since late 2007, but without major political change. The Chinese leadership has kept mentioning and even committing to “political reform,” sometimes in other words such as “political development’ or “political civilization.” However, what those terms mean is quite different from what many understand them to mean, both inside and outside China. The connotation of “political reform” generally refers to improvement, rather than active changes. Second, Professor Chu sees some positive development relations across the Taiwan straits. With the results of the Taiwanese elections on January 12 and March 22, the Mainland government now can be more relaxed about Taiwan, at least for the next four years.

Finally, Professor Chu touched upon the new empirical development in Japan where the politicians have been refraining from visiting the Yasukuni Shrine. This development has created a more positive atmosphere, and furthered the establishment of bilateral relations. South Korea’s election of a new administration is a major political change in the country; however, it hardly has significant impact on relations between China and the two Koreas. The foundation and structure of Sino-Korean relations remain firm.

SECOND SESSION: 13:30~15:15

“Election Politics in the US, Taiwan, and South Korea and Their Strategic Implications”

Chair Prof. Akihiko Tanaka University of Tokyo

Speakers Prof. Wang Jisi CISS/PKU

Prof. Yoshihide Soeya Keio University

Prof. Peter Gries University of Oklahoma

Prof. Jinho Kim Dankook University

Under the title of the session, “Election Politics in the US, Taiwan and South Korea and Their Strategic Implications”, four panelists presented their analyses of the issues. Professor Wang Jisi started by elaborating upon Taiwan’s “Presidential” election and its strategic implications. The recent landslide victory for Mr. Ma Ying-jeou and the failure to pass a referendum for Taiwan’s UN membership luckily defused a major crisis in the region. As the KMT won the election on a platform that favors eventual Chinese unification, the election is considered a sign marking a new page in cross-Strait relations. Besides this political development, Cross-Strait economic and societal ties are being strengthened. However, as shown in the election, over 40% of Taiwanese still support the DPP, and Ma’s popularity might go decline after a few months.

Responding to the election, Washington was relieved to see the results of the referendum, because both Washington and Beijing were irritated by the Taiwan’s posture. However, Washington may want to see a continued balance between Pan-Blue and Pan-Green forces in Taiwan and maintain its leverage over both political camps. With this, US arms sales to Taiwan will continue despite improved cross-Strait relations. On the balance, the US will shift its main focus from what Taipei has done in the last few years to what Beijing is going to do, thus putting the latter under somewhat greater pressure.

Beijing’s response to the political dynamism in Taiwan since the March 22 election has been quite positive. Although the Chinese Foreign Ministry will continue to try to restrict Taiwan’s international space, with recent positive development the Mainland will relax its hyper-vigilant behavior toward Taiwan. Beijing’s top priorities in the next few months will probably remain the earthquake relief work and the successful hosting of the Olympics. Nevertheless, the easing of tensions across the Strait will not quickly lead to changes in Beijing’s military planning, preparations, and procurement, as the positive trend is not seen as irreversible.

Recent developments provide a new implication for East Asian security. With tensions reduced in the Taiwan Strait, it appears easier for the PRC, the US, Japan, South Korea, and Russia to discuss the prospects of establishing a viable regional security framework, which will also involve the DPRK on the condition of progress on the nuclear issue. The recent developments may bring about new geo-strategic situations that are beneficial to all parties in the region.

In his analysis of the Japanese government’s reactions to the domestic elections of its neighboring countries, Professor Soeya presented the idea that Japan’s fundamental international stance is firm and unchangeable. Japan’s international behavior and calculations are under the premise of a strong US-Japan security alliance. Therefore, the domestic political dynamics has limited ramifications for modifying the Japanese geo-strategic situation. Maintaining the US-Japan security alliance is important mainly due to the China factor. Therefore, for Japan to construct a workable strategy, the alliance politics continue to be important. Military independence is a non-issue for Japan. The outcome of the presidential election in the US should not affect Japan’s basic strategic calculations. In addition, domestic politics will continue to be rather messy for the next five years or so, due to the dominance of the DJP in the upper house. The problem of gridlock will make it hard for Japan to come up with a new strategy.

In his statistical analysis, Professor Gries asks fundamental questions regarding how the differences in political orientation impacts Americans’ perceptions of China’s rise, attitudes towards the Chinese government, prejudice towards the Chinese people, and preferred US-China policies. In his surveys, Professor Gries found that political orientation does indeed impact American views of China.

Self-reported “conservatives” perceive significantly greater threat in China’s rise, hold more negative views of the Chinese government, exhibit more prejudice towards the Chinese people, and advocate a much tougher US-China policy than self-reported “liberals” do. In terms of party affiliation, Republicans perceive a significantly greater threat from China and advocate tougher China policies than both Independents and Democrats do, but party affiliation had no impact on prejudice scores.

Professor Kim briefly discussed the Korean and Taiwanese elections and their implications for broader East Asian security aspects. He depicted the difficulties of the Lee government in dealing with North Korea and domestic controversies surrounding the Korea Grand Waterway (韓半島 大運河) project, which President Lee believes will lead to an economic revival. Faced with some political difficulties only two months after his inauguration, Lee's approval ratings stood at 28%. Regarding the Taiwanese election, Kim focused on the reluctance of Ma’s policy on environmental issues as he focuses his attentions on economic improvement.

THIRD SESSION: 15:30-17:30

“Power Relations under New Domestic Dynamics in East Asia”

Chair Prof. Moon Chung-in Yonsei University

Speakers Prof. Xu Bu Policy Planning Department, CMFA

Prof. Ken Jimbo Keio University

Prof. Shen Dingli Fudan University

Prof. Yuan Peng CICIR

Four presenters discussed “Power Relations under New Domestic Dynamics in East Asia” during the third roundtable in the afternoon. As a representative of a government agency, Dr. Xu Bu presented important aspects of regional developments in a neutral tone. According to his assessment, geo-political calculations for the region are not going to change dramatically. The basic and core aspects of US foreign policy of will not change. There might be some minor maneuvers and adjustments, but the standard position will be more or less same.

It is expected that the situation in the Middle East will not change dramatically, as the US forces are expected to stay in the region for the foreseeable future. In Japan, we may expect to see frequent replacement of political actors, but without any significant structural change. In South Korea the Lee government will not make any bold attempts to shift the basis of its foreign policy. In China the objectives of the state will be focused on continued economic development. Regarding the recent developments in the Six-Party Talks, Dr. Xu Bu thinks that the meeting mechanism and framework can be developed into a model for a broader Northeast Asian security dialogue. Therefore, all parties involved in the talks have reason for optimism.

In contrast to Dr. Xu Bu, Professor Ken Jimbo presented a somewhat alarming view of regional security prospects. According to him, China is the only country in the region that may attempt regional hegemony. Japan is also on the rise given its economic power base. However, there are also some positive developments in the region. Involved countries are increasing their cooperation. Notably, after 2003, the United States has shown a tendency to cooperate in the region, supporting China’s peaceful rise and encouraging the China to become a more active insider. Given issues such as the nuclear situation in North Korea and terrorist inroads, the expanding role of China in the region is ever more important. To counterbalance the role of China, Japan has upgraded its alliance with the US. The implications of an emerging China are clearly recognized and definitely influence Japanese policy makers. In sum, a viable Northeast-Asian security community will only be possible when there is actual, concrete arms reduction

In his presentation, Professor Shen Dingli elaborated on many different aspects of current empirical developments in Northeast Asia, and provided his further assessments. As he mentioned, respective countries are undergoing their own difficulties:

· Mainland China is undergoing continuing economic expansion, while adjusting its labor-capital relationship.

· Under Ma Ying-jeou’s leadership, Taiwan has returned to a One-China track;

· Japan’s new Fukuda doctrine has attached importance to wider Asian-Pacific economic cooperation and integration.

· President Lee Myung-bak’s contradictory “pragmatic policy” has met with setbacks thus far, and is being adjusted.

· The U.S. is facing great frustration in its foreign policy, at a time of significant realignment of power relations.

· Russia has entered a post-Putin era with Putin still in virtual power.

· The DPRK is moving forward to declare its nuclear capability.

In sum, Mainland China’s overall external environment has significantly improved. Its decade-long confrontation with the pro-independence Taiwan authority is apparently being defused; and the two sides across the Taiwan Strait are likely to begin and sustain at least a decade-long détente, much relieving security concerns of all stakeholders in East Asia. This in turn will help smooth Beijing’s security relationships with Washington and Tokyo, paving the way for a possible post-6 Party Talk East Asia-wide security dialogue.

On the other hand, American military dominance in East Asia is facing challenges. The DPRK’s acquisition of nuclear weapons capability has already neutralized the U.S. freedom of action on the Peninsula. With the economic rise of East Asia, Washington’s ability to affect the region’s political and economic situation is likely to decline, which requires all stakeholders to be more careful in handling the coming decade of power shifting.

In contrast to Professor Shen, Professor Yuan Feng stated that America is not in decline; he used instead the term “rest” for the current state of development. In his analysis, recent developments such as the Sichuan earthquake and Tibetan riots have given policymakers second-thoughts about the absolute prosperity and overall rosy picture of China. The development of the new nationalism also poses some difficulties. The ongoing rise of China seems to be increasingly accompanied by growing nationalism. In contrast to Japan, where growing nationalism has coincided with diminished capabilities, in China growing nationalism coincides with increased capabilities. And the Chinese leadership seems to be increasingly reliant on appeals to nationalism for political legitimacy. In addition, the trend of rising China is not indefinite and may face some slow-downs.

During the response session, Professor Gries asked whether there would be any major changes in Chinese foreign policy after the Olympic Games of this year. In response, Dr. Xu Bu confirmed that there will not be any major changes. The Chinese foreign ministry is currently putting every effort into insuring a successful Olympic Games. As to the North Korea nuclear crisis, China will continue to support the current policy of engaging with the regime, because China does not want any unstable situation in the region. In response to the same question, Professor Shen Dingli mentioned that post-Olympic diplomacy will depend heavily on the successful completion of the Games. If China gains in pride, the tolerance will be higher for various issues.

A couple of professors also made comments on the role of the military in non-military missions, as we have seen the case of Sichuan earthquake disaster relief. Professor Tanaka thinks that the developments are quite interesting, while the Japanese military has only limited capabilities. On that note, Professor Chu Shulong made the point that more active military modernization of China is important to reinforce the military forces that are charged with internal stability. Thus, he argued that mobile forces are needed for non-military missions.

FOURTH SESSION: 8:30-10:00

“Nationalism, Competing Political Thoughts, and Diversified Identities and Their Security Implications”

Chair Prof. Robert Ross Boston College

Speakers Prof. Moon Chung-in Yonsei University

Prof. Peter H. Gries University of Oklahoma

Prof. Akihiko Tanaka University of Tokyo

Prof. Yu Tiejun CISS/PKU

Four professors presented their ideas under the title of “Nationalism, Competing Political Thoughts, and Diversified Identities and Their Security Implications”. Professor Moon first provided an overview of empirical patterns developing in Korea. In East Asia, a new international pattern of economic integrations is developing rapidly, and respective countries are seeking a peaceful commonality. Nevertheless, on the other side of the spectrum, there is a growing tendency among nations in the region to seek a salient “national identity”. The trend raises a question as to whether modernization, economic integration and globalization may be conducive to the demise of nationalism.

Arguably, there have been three different types of nationalism during the course of contemporary Korean political events. During the era of Japanese colonial occupation, the so-called consuming nationalism thrived. The general public showed great zeal for establishing Korea nation as a single sovereign nation. However, in the post-WWII era, with the division of the Korean peninsula, the zeal for promoting national unity through national unification greatly intensified. During the Park Chunghee era (1961-1979) the kind of nationalism has been transfigured into so-called instrumental nationalism. National mobilization of people under the name of economic modernization has been sweeping in Korea. Without in-depth understanding of such socio-economic factors, it is hard to explain various activities including new village movements.

Currently, Korea is experiencing reacting nationalism. On February, 22, 2005, Shimane Prefecture in Japan declared a “Day of Takeshima”. This declaration infuriated the Korean public. President Noh Moohyun vehemently criticized the act as an outright negation of past history, because Japan’s justification of invasion and colonization of Korea started from the Dokdo (Takeshima) possession rights dispute. Both the general public and the authorities took the issue very seriously, which fomented wide spread nationalist sentiment throughout the Korean peninsula. However, there was no tension with China until the issue of the Kyokuyo Dynasty was raised. Therefore, nationalism over territorial and historical sovereignty seems to be growing. What is really interesting is the fact that such developments stir and exacerbate hostile reaction only in ultra-right wing groups in the region.

Professor Gries continued the discussion on nationalism in the Chinese political context. Although he was somewhat cautious about delivering any deterministic argument due to various recent developments, he assessed both positive and negative trends that are associated with nationalism. One notable positive trend of Chinese nationalism is in its unification of people regardless of region, ethnicity, social class, or location in city or country. In other words, the trend seems to be laying the ground work for “what it means to be Chinese”. Traditionally, Chinese nationalism has been reactive. It has included a strong victimization narrative of China struggling against external forces. But recent developments are different from previous type of nationalism. They have moved the thinking of Chinese people beyond reactive nationalism and provocation of outsiders.

The current trend may have both positive and negative consequences. Overly nationalistic argument could bring about negative long-term consequences while producing some short-term victories. Professor Gries pointed out the fact that the Chinese Communist Party is becoming more sophisticated in handling nationalism issues for the benefit of national objectives. The government now can stand fast against popular demand, and the Department of Foreign Affairs is brilliantly utilizing this capability. However, there are also negative aspects associated with the current trend in nationalism. It appears that government’s excessive involvement and reaction to domestic nationalism impairs the state’s legitimacy. Encouraging hongweibing type reactions creates an image that China as cheap in the international media. Gaining a reputation as a bully is neither in the best interests of the government nor should it be a core aspect of foreign policy. China should try to project the image of a great power. In response to Professor Gries’s argument, Professor Shen emphasized that what China needs is tolerance and ability to let the small things go.

Professor Tanaka introduced the patterns of nationalism in Japan, which include the kind of nationalism derived from reaction against foreign-imposed aggression. During the post-war era, the sense of deprivation played an important role in reconfiguring the characteristics of nationalistic sentiment. The government has responded to nationalistic trends by enacting various laws including the following:

  • text book revision (China first criticized in 1983)
  • legalization of national flag in 1999
  • reform of basic law of education in 2006, so that children can learn to love their country more profoundly
  • Legalize of a national religious monument (rededication of Yasukuni à failure)

In 1985, Prime Minister Nakasone visited the Yasukuni Shrine for the first time, but he soon stopped after severe foreign criticisms. What is interesting is that the generation born in the 1950s became the core ideologues of the country, and whenever the international reaction intensified, they often rejoiced in identifying adversaries. In this case, intensified criticism from both Korea and China only fomented their more proactive nationalistic behaviors. Prime Minister Abe, however, realized that cultivating a sense of nationalism was not pragmatic, so he terminated the Yasukuni visits. This affected the election in July, 2007.

In his presentation, Professor Yu Tiejun introduced the newly developed notion of human security. The Sichuan earthquake in May and the snowstorm at the beginning of this year have made the concept of human security or (人類安全) more relevant than ever before in China. However, the concept did not receive much attention from either academics or the government. It is nevertheless worth studying, given its increasing significance as well as the near impossibility of deadly conflict among the major powers in the region.

In a dramatically changing and pluralizing society, human security will become more and more relevant to China, and to individual Chinese people. Furthermore, it coincides with the guidelines of the current Chinese government, and could play a constructive role in the process of building a “harmonious society.” Considering the weakness of Chinese NGOs, and to a large extent, the Chinese society, China needs to learn from the experiences of other countries to manage any future human security issues. In addition, more concrete institutionalization of security cooperation in East Asia is needed.

During the discussion session, panelists agreed on the point that the notion of nationalism is important, whether it is rising or in decline. The rise of nationalism in China coincides with the Chinese demand for international respect. Professor Zhu agreed with Professor Moon’s point about institutional nationalism in Korea. Although Professor Zhu evaluates the recent development of nationalism as genuine, he questioned whether Chinese nationalism can be a “functional instrument”.

Professor Tang agreed with Professor Gries’ point that the utilization of nationalism only brings short-term advantages. Professor Andrei point out that regardless of any narrowing-down of political ideology, there are trends of increasing nationalism in East Asia. In contrast to Europe, where the degree of post-nationalism is rising, ethnic nationalisms are growing strongly in East Asia. Professor Shen Dingli thinks that the current rise of nationalism is a natural phenomenon. One positive aspect is the spirit of unity that can be formed out of nationalistic propaganda, though there are also negative aspects if they are over-used. Thus, leadership should be very careful in utilizing the notion.

In response to Professor Moon’s concern about the Gokuryo issue, Professor Jia Qingguo pointed out the important fact that the case has been overblown in Korea. In China, only small fractions of the people are even aware of the issue. Thus, political settle can make difference. In sum, Professor Yu Tiejun agrees with the point that the chief Chinese security concern should be more inward and related to managing more non-traditional issues. He also concurs with Professor Gries that the CCP’s response to the 2005 Japanese demonstration, the torch rally, and the Tibet issue are not the proper interests of the Chinese government. Any excessive manipulation of nationalistic sentiments may backfire.

SESSION FIVE (10:15-11:40)

“Regional Security in East Asia: Changed Domestic Landscape and Unchanged Security Skyline?”

Chair Prof. Jia qingguo CISS/PKU

Speakers Prof. Robert Ross Boston College

Prof. Moon Chung-in Yonsei University

Prof. Yoshihide Soeya Keio University

Prof. Zhu Feng CISS/PKU

In the discussion titled “Regional Security in East Asia: Changed Domestic Landscape and Unchanged Security Skyline?” four panelists offered their ideas. Professor Ross first pointed out that the long-term trend projections are on their way. East Asian countries are reacting to rising China. Therefore, the sources of change in geo-political calculations are based on the China factor. Following that logic, respective countries in the region are concerned about managing and accommodating China and its emerging new power. The United States is less and less capable of protecting South Korea and Taiwan if China behaves aggressively. Thus, they must find a way to guarantee their own security. Currently, the United States is accepting the changes in South Korea and Taiwan’s behavior.

Governments in East Asia are well aware of the fact that the United States does not have any territorial interests in the region. Thus, both Taiwan and South Korea might still be interested in pursuing the same pattern of security alliance. Japan is also trying to strengthen its security alliance with the US in reaction to the rise of China. Singapore, and the Philippines are also leaning away from China and towards the US. Yet, ironically, East Asia is the most stable region in the world.

As China becomes more secure, its expectations become higher. The Chinese army is still a foundation of national security. However, the waters separating China and Japan provide some security, because America will remain the strongest naval power in the region. When examining Sino-US relations, we need to look at defense build-up in a long-term perspective. An undesired outcome will be another unnecessary round of arms race. In sum, however, there is a high degree of optimism in the long-term perspective. As professor Shen Dingli said, as China builds its confidence, it has the power to ignore trivial things.

Professor Moon Chung-in discussed the current challenges that Korea faces. They can be categorized into three major areas of difficulty:

  1. Military confrontation between North and South Korea
  2. Nuclear dilemma in North Korea
  3. How to deal with strategic uncertainty (began to concern non-traditional security issues such as environmental, energy, food etc.)
  4. Korea is seeking a position in the region. Casting off its past passive approach, Korea is now actively seeking peace in the peninsula. For that reason, during the previous Noh government, a so-called “balanced-pragmatic diplomacy” was considered. However, under the current Lee government, “maintaining peace” became the priority rather than any actual peace-making effort. In regard to policy towards North Korea, things are not progressing smoothly. Although the Lee government has proposed its “Denuclearization 3000 Plan”, the proposal seems to be unacceptable to authorities in North. Besides, the South Korean authorities have never fully explained in detail aspects of the policy. Thus, it is an empty proposal at best. Under the current leadership, the ideal case for South Korea is continuation of the US-Korea security alliance. Alliance with either China or Japan is not an ideal option for South Korea, although US power projections are not clear in the region. This is the dilemma that South Korea faces. At the moment, however, it seems the Lee government is concerned only with bilateral relations. Professor Moon could not find any mention of “multilateral relations” in the president’s statements.

Professor Yoshihide Soeya discussed the development of security-related ideas in Japan. Although he is sympathetic to the view that the Korean Peninsula is surrounded by four great powers, he does not fully agree with the notion. From a Japanese perspective, Japan and Korea are surrounded by three great powers, namely the US, China and Russia. Therefore, some forms of strategic opportunity are still there, and there has been a growth in multilateral cooperation. Middle-level powers cannot survive without seeking such institutional support.

In the domestic situation in Japan, there are three fundamental views of Japanese diplomacy:

  • First, “Yoshidara” was the source of success, but now it is the source of nationalism. Both the people and authorities are demanding such as freedom of Japan, lack of autonomy. The trend definitely surfaced as challenges of diplomatic arena.
  • Nevertheless, initial changes of diplomatic arena in Japan are rather healthy. Japan’s demand for changing “article 9” is responding to post war changes as a responsible member of international community. Thus it has international dimensions.
  • Changing trend in regional security, particularly the North Korean threat has been utilized by radical right wings ground. But, now the trend has been somewhat reversed.

Without touching on these fundamental twists, it is hard to break the ground to find a common solution. Therefore, starting from Korea, Japan needs to find a way to persuade other powers. But at the same time, US-China relations should be smooth.

Professor Zhu Feng touched upon empirical developments in East Asia. According to professor Zhu, the Sino-Japanese relations have been improved significantly in recent years with the new leadership in Japan. The Fukuda government has been genuinely showing their desired intension to maintain a firm relations based on reciprocity. Professor Zhu calls it a “Genuine New Framework”.

The Taiwan Strait relations are also developing in a desired direction. With recent landslide victory of the pan-blue coalition KMT that aims at eventual reunification with Mainland China, the President-elect Ma tries to maintain good relations with the Mainland. The case of South Korea is somewhat foggy with the current Lee Myong-bak’s new diplomatic approach. At the moment, it appears that as if Korea is only seeking to strengthen the US-Korea security alliance while less concern about China factor. However, there is no doubt that China, Japan and Korea relations never been better since the end of Cold War.

Nevertheless, Professor Zhu warns that controversies are still there with some destabilizing factors. The growing gaps between the people are major concerns to be analyzed profoundly. In political and diplomatic level, both institutional and international structure to support better relations are there, but we need to find a common ground to build more enhanced relations in lower level. Therefore, professor Zhu suggests that one of the biggest challenges seems to be constructively managing domestic challenge, while seeking to find a way to build ideational bases to achieve genuine reciprocity.

During the response session, Professor Jia commented that the new idea of security community in East Asia does not exclude anyone. Therefore, all involved parties ought to work hard to find a common ground to reconcile the differences. Professor Tanaka pointed out that there are true growing interests in the non-traditional security concerns however argued that we must not forget that, the source of the problem comes from the realist perspective. Therefore, we cannot completely ignore the hardware aspects of the security politics. Professor Tanaka also pointed out that the building defense forces in Japan should not be interpreted as, Japanese government are only concerning the hardware aspects of realpolitik.

Professor Andrei made his comment that, Japan is perhaps the most reliable logical friends of South Korea. But, in reality the relations are not as optimistic as desired. He disagrees with the role of the military in non-military mission that are raised by many panelists including Professors Jia Qingguo. Professor Jia, and Chu think that non-traditional role of the defense forces is important.

Professor Gries made his final remark that, in the absence of accurate understanding, American tends to make a quick decision about China, thus prone to biased view (e.g. Tibet issues). On the other hand, China also view that, sometime, the interpretation often comes from deeply held conviction that western countries purposely downgrading China. Therefore, perception issues are very important, because it impacts on international calculation and behavior of involved countries.

Professor Ken Jimbo pointed out two important matters. First, there are newly emerging trends and collaboration: Minilateralism. The accumulation of such talks and discussion are encouraging phenomenon. Putting continuous effort to further developing the patterns is desired. Second, professor Jimbo pointed out that “we should not disregard the importance of Southeast Asia (ASEAN)” as it is losing its cohesiveness in recent years.

In his concluding remarks, Professor Wang Jisi pointed out that the two days conferences were very thought provoking and touched on many flash points of the region. Particularly, he made the point that non-traditional issues are important but it is hard to say whether the government officially fully accepts the notion at the moment.

He also frankly said and assumed that all respective members here are nationalists in one sense or other. However, what kind nationalism is healthy? He suggested that more active public participations are healthy in formulating more reliable policy recommendations. Professor Wang also made the comment that Chinese domestic stabilities has been developed and reinforced by recent economic development. In this context, we must not forget that China’s international standing always linked to domestic politics and stability of China. Nonetheless, dangers are still out there.

Dongmin Lee (Research Fellow)–Rapporteur

Center for International & Strategic Studies, PKU

June 10, 2008


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