Yoshihide Soeya, Director of the Keio Institute of East Asian Studies Japan
Chung-in Moon, Professor at Yonsei University
François Godement, Co-author and Director of the Asia and China Programme at ECFR
Gudrun Wacker, Senior Fellow, SWP
On 16 April 2015 the Asia & China Programme had the pleasure to welcome two authors of the new ECFR essay collection How Do Asians See Their Future, Yoshihide Soeya, Professor at the Keio Institute of East Asian Studies Japan, and Chung-in Moon, Professor at Yonsei University. Both arrived yesterday in Berlin and will travel on to Paris, Warsaw, and London.
In the evening the Essay collection was first published at the premises of our partners, the Robert Bosch Foundation. Gudrun Wacker, Asia Senior Fellow at SWP chaired the discussion between the two authors and François Godement.
Soeya argued that two trends have emerged in China: at a global level, China is ready to co-exist with the US and cooperate with the US. However, at a regional level, the “China dream” means the re-creation of a China-centred Asia (e.g. the disputes in the East China and South China Seas are connected to that), and to co-exist with the US under the assumption that the US won’t intervene. Those two trends illustrate the long-term tension China faces between its global role and its aspirations in Asia.
Possible future scenarios in Asia include a) the continuation of status quo, which is a fluctuation between conflicts and cooperation – the most likely scenario; b) a polarized Asia (China vs the US) – the nightmare scenario; c) a Europeanized Asia, meaning that Asia learns from Europe how to establish an economic and political community – probably an idealistic scenario. Each of those scenarios will partly depend on China’s domestic development, such as economic growth and the emergence of nationalism.
Both authors agreed that there is no consensus among Asians on how to respond to China’s rise. As Moon explained, in Korea for example, there are different schools/positions: the “balancing” school (which believes the US is needed to check the balance against China’s rise), the “bandwagoning” school (which accepts that China is the emerging hegemon and believes Korea should align itself with it), the “stand-alone” school (with 2 variants: to go nuclear, or to stay neutral), the “muddling through” school (which is basically what the ROK is doing at the moment: maintaining good relations with both the US and China, and refusing to side with either one of them), and finally the “community building” school (an economic and security community in Asia, along European lines, to resolve the security dilemma).
François Godement noted that currently there are strong leaders emerging all over Asia, who might have the capability to achieve great change – for the better or worse. Thus the future of Asia is wide open. He concluded that Asia will challenge our (European) views, and surprise us in regard to conflict resolution.