Roundtable: The East Asian Peace – Can It Last?
Roundtable in the ThinkChina Working Group on Politics with Stein Tønnesson, Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo.
Open to the public but registration required.
For 140 years from the First Opium War to the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979, the East Asian region (Northeast and Southeast Asia) was characterized by frequent warfare, massacres and man-made catastrophes. Since 1979, East Asians have enjoyed a period of exceptional peace, allowing tremendous economic and social progress. A six-year research program at Uppsala University (Sweden) from 2011-16 has explored East Asia’s transition from widespread war to relative peace, seeking to explain the onset of the peace and gauge its viability. In his talk, Stein Tønnesson will present the main findings. He finds the main explanation in a change of national priorities: the leaders of one country after the other, beginning with Japan, shifted to economic growth as their main priority, and therefore sought internal and external stability. He sets this thesis up against rival explanations, such as military deterrence, Sino-US rapprochement and cooperation, economic interdependence, and consensus-seeking culture (the ‘ASEAN Way’). In conclusion he discusses the viability of the East Asian Peace, claiming that as long as the main regional states do not fall apart, and allow global and regional economic integration to continue, the peace is likely to hold even without such factors that have underpinned the European Peace: resolution of territorial disputes, democratic governance, and regional political integration. Yet the East Asian Peace would become more viable if the nations thriving on it could cooperate on the basis of shared values, including the principles of international law.
Stein Tønnesson is a Research Professor at Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), and Leader of the East Asian Peace program, Uppsala University.
Moderator: Bertel Heurlin, Jean Monnet Professor at the Dept. of Political Science, University of Copenhagen.