Is there Life in the ‘Asian Peace’?

Global Asia - - BOOK REVIEWS - Re­viewed by Tae­hwan Kim

North­east Asia in re­cent years has seen a resur­gence of ret­ro­spec­tive na­tion­al­ism and geopo­lit­i­cal con­test. This calls into ques­tion the so-called “Asian Peace” hy­poth­e­sis, founded on strong so­cio-cul­tural ex­changes, eco­nomic in­ter­de­pen­dence and a lack of war for decades. Why are transna­tional re­la­tion­ships in de­te­ri­o­rat­ing and be­com­ing more volatile?

Amid a sea of re­al­ism preva­lent to­day in schol­arly, me­dia and pol­icy dis­courses on in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, Cle­ments ex­plores the iden­tity and ideational di­men­sions of the re­la­tion­ships among the ma­jor North­east Asian coun­tries: China, Ja­pan and Korea. This en­deavor is rel­e­vant and le­git­i­mate in that col­lec­tive his­tor­i­cal mem­o­ries, deeply in­grained in their na­tional iden­ti­ties, cast a long shadow over in­ter­state and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions in the re­gion.

Fif­teen con­trib­u­tors probe how na­tional iden­tity is con­structed in the three coun­tries, in which col­lec­tive his­tor­i­cal mem­o­ries are gen­er­at­ing threat per­cep­tions through the (re)con­struct­ing of an in­im­i­cal “Other;” these are then re­flected in their for­eign and se­cu­rity poli­cies. Clashes of iden­tity have been stop­ping the three from nour­ish­ing sta­ble co-op­er­a­tive re­la­tion­ships. While power-ori­ented re­al­ists would ar­gue that North­east Asian re­la­tions are de­ter­mined pri­mar­ily by re­gional power pol­i­tics and big power tran­si­tions, the es­sen­tial propo­si­tion driv­ing this book is that the re­la­tion­ships re­main un­re­solved and in­tractable be­cause they flow pri­mar­ily from clashes of iden­tity and di­ver­gent mem­o­ries of suf­fer­ing and pain, all of which are heav­ily an­chored in the past and re­sult in a gen­er­al­ized in­abil­ity to trust one another.

Iden­tity, Trust, and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in East Asia:

Deal­ing with Painful His­tory to Cre­ate a Peace­ful Present Edited by Kevin P. Cle­ments

Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2018, 302 pages, $118.51 (Hard­cover)

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