The Conference Program
East Asia is experiencing new pressures for transformation from three forces: globalization, democratization, and regionalization. Yet it is also burdened with unresolved issues left over from its past. The world’s last two remaining divided nations need to find peaceful ways to create mutual understanding and cooperation. They also need to prevent historical animosities arising from East Asia’s colonial and Cold War eras from hindering cooperation with their neighbors as well as among themselves. Current tensions arising from changes in nuclear policies in North Korea, following important initiatives on the part of South Korea and Japan to integrate North Korea into the regional community, have made East Asia the focus of world attention. The outcome of this tension and of these initiatives will have global as well as regional consequences. At the same time, these developments offer possibilities for rethinking the shape and future of this important region, and its relationship to the rest of the world.
There is also the issue of a shift in power. Uneven economic growth has long tilted the power balance in each East Asian divided nation — toward Seoul against Pyongyang in case of the Korean peninsula and toward Beijing against Taipei in case of Greater China. The major powers are also experiencing a shift in the balance of power, with Beijing and Washington gaining and Tokyo and Moscow seemingly losing leverage. As a result of these and other developments, East Asia as a region is facing a new political task of finding ways to reduce tensions, and to reduce the misunderstandings and misinterpretations so prevalent in any period of power shift and transition.
This international conference aims to decipher East Asia’s newly emerging power configuration and its interaction with the triple forces of globalization, democratization and regionalization in shaping foreign policy. The objective is to link scholars with practitioners in order to identify possible trouble spots and to seek a peaceful way to resolve national differences.
The transcripts of all discussions and recommendations will be made available to the public when the conference is concluded.
Agenda of the Conference
General Theme: Is there an East Asian “regional” subsystem, which is constituted by forces different from other regional subsystems? Is “soft power” as important as “hard power,” as in Western Europe?
A. Sovereignty: Are there any signs of subtle but important change in East Asia’s conception of national sovereignty? Does Hong Kong show a way to deal with sovereignty issues among its divided nations?
B. Multilateral Institutions: What applicability does Western Europe’s past “EEC” or current “EU” formula have for pulling together sovereign powers to deal with collective issues in East Asia?
C. Sino/American Bilateral Relations: What are common and diverging interests insecurity? Are they making enemies of each other due to divergent world-views, or is it due to misinterpretations of each other’s long-term intentions? How can Beijing and Washington peacefully compete as well as cooperate within a constructive political and institutional framework? To what extent do Beijing and Washington ease or worsen the existing tensions in the region and the trend of military build-up? Is the concept of “hegemonic rivalry” helpful in grasping current Sino-American relations?
D. North Korea: Where is Pyongyang headed? What has happened since Kim Jong-Il initiated his latest reformist overtures on both internal and external fronts in July 2002? Where does a “new” Pyongyang fit into major power politics? Is it still tilted toward Beijing, or is it pursuing what could potentially be an “equidistance” policy between Beijing and Washington, like its Cold War stand toward Beijing and Moscow? How will renewed concerns about nuclear weapons development affect the situation?
E. South Korea: How has the change of government affected the “Sunshine Policy”? What is its strategy of balancing its security interests in alliance management with its hope for dialogue with Pyongyang? Has it managed to contain the negative domestic political consequences of ideological rapproachement with Pyongyang more effectively than before 2003 and move forward on its security and economic talks with Pyongyang?
F. Taiwan: Where is Taiwan headed? What has happened to its desire for “normal” nationhood? How does China’s “Hong Kong formula” have to change in order to satisfy its “minimum” requirement for national sovereignty, or is this a completely unacceptable option? What are American national interests in this? And Japanese?
G. Japan: How do political developments in Pyongyang and Taipei affect Tokyo? Do they constitute an opportunity for it to adopt new foreign policy roles and raise its national capability? What has happened to its negotiation for diplomatic normalization and reparations with Pyongyang? Does Tokyo’s rising influence over Pyongyang or Taipei complement or collide with American and Chinese interests?
H. Russia: Has it taken a stand clearly distinguishable from Beijing, Tokyo, and Washington over security issues on Pyongyang and Taipei? Or, has it been playing a supporter role for any particular major power? What is its vision for East Asia? How may Russian interests be affected by regional developments?
I. New “Human Security” Issues: Why has there been so little progress in meeting East Asia’s shared problems? What roles have states and NGOs played or failed to play in dealing with North Korean refugees? What is the status of internal ethnic tensions?
J. Financial Challenges: Will the threat of a global economic downturn and growing deflationary pressures ignite another East Asian financial crisis? What should Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea do to address the protracted non-performing loan problems in their banking sectors? Are such national efforts enough? What should and could be done regionally to avoid crisis?
K. Economic Challenges: What is the new division of labor in East Asia? How true is the claim that China is damaging the manufacturing industries in other nations in the region? Are Japan, South Korea and Taiwan really being “deindustrialized” in recent years? What kinds of adjustment challenges have occurred or will occur in each East Asian nation’s agricultural sector, with the Chinese liberalization pledged as part of acquiring WTO membership? How has Beijing’s foreign economic policy toward its neighbors changed after its WTO entry?