new titles by Peter hayes and Chung-in Moon (eds.); Kevin P. Clements (ed.); alyssa ayres; Ian Johnson; Charles R. Kim; Max Boot; Rodric Braithwaite; Walter C. Clemens Jr.; S.C.M. Paine; andray abrahamian; Will Doig.
Is an East Asian Community possible or probable? Decades of high economic interdependence and sociocultural interactions appear not to have ameliorated traditional security problems in the region. The East Asian peace that has lasted for at least four decades now appears volatile at best, with the threat of armed conflict, and even nuclear annihilation, lingering on the horizon. The region is trapped in a set of security dilemmas, revealing more of an “anti-community” than a community. This volume, published in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the East Asia Foundation, a nonprofit research-oriented institution based in Seoul — and the publisher of Global Asia — explores the factors and prospects both facilitating and inhibiting community-building in Northeast Asia, a prerequisite for a broader East Asian Community.
Nine prominent scholars with diverse national backgrounds endeavor to imagine a Northeast Asian Community by applying all three major international relations schools of thought — realism, liberalism and constructivism. Their intellectual probe revolves around three mutually intertwined dimensions. The first is the history-identity nexus. The deep animosity between China and Japan, and between Korea and Japan, stems from Japan’s imperial project in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during which agonizing colonial and semi-colonial memories became deeply ingrained as the fundamental elements in Korean and Chinese national identity.
The specter of the historical past, and subsequent cognitive dissonance among China, Japan and
Korea, weigh heavily on the present, with “identity gaps” among these three countries continuing to widen, as Gilbert Rozman contends in his chapter. The second is the resurgence of geopolitical competition in the region. Power politics is certainly at work. Thus, Ruizhuang Zhang argues from a realist position that the future of the entire region, including the possibility of creating an East Asian Community, will be determined by the unfolding logic of power politics.
G. John Ikenberry, on the other hand, believes that the post-war liberal international order is weakening, but not disappearing in the region because the benefits of maintaining the order outweigh the costs of replacing it even for the “spoilers” like China and Russia. Muthiah Alagappa goes a step further to denounce the “negative logic of anarchy” that has dominated the region since the end of the Second World War, decidedly giving rise to several security dilemmas. As a result, Alagappa contends, the critical problem is not the distribution of power or power transition, but the rigid realist “knowledge structure,” or strategic orientation, held by political and military leaders who control these forces uniformly in realist ways. The third is the trans-national chain reactions of competitive nationalism ramifying all the way from the domestic to the transnational realm. Japan often triggers Chinese and Korean reactions, which in turn strengthen right-wing nationalist sentiments and movements in Japan.
Chung-in Moon argues that the negative dynamic of competitive “reactive nationalism” completes its full vicious circle, amplifying animosities among the three countries. The authors concur that an
East Asian Community appears an elusive dream now, but not impossible in the future. They offer some meaningful suggestions that could lead to a community. First of all, in order to loosen the historical and territorial straitjacket, it is crucial to create transnational communities and networks aimed at solving specific common problems. Transnational epistemic communities, in particular, would be of help in deconstructing the prevailing geopolitical discourses, and also in adopting less rigid models of the nation state that can accommodate greater diversity and autonomy.
The contributors to the volume together urge that now is the time to collectively engage in collaborative construction of shared regional identities, and of an imagined Asian Community. Ultimately, “the future is made, not forecast.”
Reviewed by Taehwan Kim, Associate Professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy and book reviews co-editor for Global Asia
The Future of East Asia Edited by Peter Hayes and Chung-in Moon Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, 318 pages, $179.00 (Hardcover)