SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
Li Yanming “East Asia in the Post-Corona Era”
We had nearly a hundred participants at SGRA Café this time.
The reasons、 why we could gather such a big number of participants, are :
1) Timely selection of the theme “East Asia in the Post-Corona Era”
2) Attractive lecturers as Mr. Lim Chuan-Tiong and others
and 3) “Virtual style” Café
The Café started with Mr. Lim Chuan-Tiong’s lecture at the first section.
Though we had a get-together meeting after the lecture and comments, I like to explain Mr. Lim’s lecture mainly in this report. As to a get-together meeting, I like to ask Mr. Lim to report in a separate report.
Mr. Lim started his lecture from his view on the world, namely the end of globalization of the world. As a concrete example, he pointed out breaking-off of global supply chains and recurring of the companies in their home countries, suspension of personnel exchange and upsurge of nationalism etc. He reported also that many countries have developed their feelings of distrust against China in their initial response against coronavirus and establishment and enforcement of the “Hong Kong National Security Act”.
Following such report, he expressed the change of the relationship among the East Asian countries in the “New Cold War” between the United States and China. Between Japan and South Korea, the biggest issue is how to keep their balance with the United States and China. China is trying to break up the relations of Japan and South Korea with the United States in the atmosphere that frictions between Japan and South Korea are getting worse. He insisted also that relations between Japan and China were shifted from “quasi-honeymoon” to “hot-China and cool-Japan” during these two years.
At first, China took leadership for Japan-China friendship relationships. However, the Chinese image in Japan is tarnishing day by day and Xi’s visiting Japan as a national guest is uncertain now. It is said that China took the initiative in China-South Korea relationships also and Mr. Lim pointed out that South Korea’s diplomacy did not take their independence. If so, and when the COVID19 would calm down, will Chinese influence become stronger at once? Firstly, in Hong Kong, the Chinese Government will make Hong Kong shift to an authoritarian regime ignoring antipathy or criticism of the United States and European countries. (Before the year 1997, Hong Kong was initiated by local government and half-colonized.) On the other hand, China began to consider, for Taiwan, it would not be bad to keep distance between Main-Land China and Taiwan. It was an unexpected effect of COVID19. We can say it is an opposite effect against such radical policies like “Merger of Cross-Strait Relations” and “Preferential Treatment 31 agendum(恵台３１カ条)“. Chinese control policy of Hong Kong made Taiwan to be under pressure. As a result of loosing of Hong Kong as a buffer zone, Taiwan’s reliance on the United States is increasing.
Mr. Lim concluded his lecture saying that “the Post-Corona Era” is the coming of “New Cold War”. Hong Kong and Taiwan will be the place of “hard-fought battle”. Though we must pay attention to the presidential election of the United States in November this year, we cannot avoid “New Cold War”, because consensus on Chinese policy was already made in the United States. Shall the world be divided into two major blocks, the United States and China?
What Japan will be asked to behave hereafter is their independent activities and leadership.
Following Mr. Lim’s lecturer, we had a few comments.
Firstly, Mr. SHIMOKOJI Shuji (ex-diplomat) commented as follows.
The New Coronavirus issue brought about a lot of issues to international societies. Mutual trust is a part of such issues. He pointed out, however, that we are now in the stage how to cope with our common enemy “coronavirus”. As to an improvement of relations between Japan and China, it is desirable. But it is not important which side shall take the initiative. What is important now is how to lead international orders to constructive direction and big powers must discuss each other especially.
Professor NAM Ki-Jeong commented as follows:
When we think about international order of “Post-Corona Era” as “New-Order”, we must overcome a framework of “theory of realism” in the international politics. It became clear that we have to get rid of “identity-politics” and it is necessary to build the politics which should be put in a center of people’s lives. If we would stick to “identity-politics”, the relations between Japan and South Korea will be failed. However, when we look at political viewpoints which focus on people’s living like the COVID19, we will not be able to solves such issue if we appeal to only nationalism. The COVID19 taught politicians that identities or nationalism
would not lead to the votes. Politicians should consider how they shall leave their political legacy behind. Professor Nam concluded his comment saying that he hopes middle powered nations like Japan and Korea to establish such political legacies.
We finished the lecture and comment section after one hour and 45 minutes. As my personal impression, there were a lot of subjects which we would like to discuss taking more time and it was an interesting cafe as a researcher. And it was a thoughtful lecture for me how I, as a citizen, will develop an international order and how I will act for it. As been pointed out at a get-together meeting, personal power is limited and “identities” cannot be overcome easily by an individual. Needless to say, bad feelings or prejudice are easier to be established, if we will be in negative histories in political situations or restriction of information. Is it OK to give up at this stage? For this half year in 2020, I had a locked up feeling or thought pessimistic in the atmosphere of avoiding going out and meeting.
But I believe there would be positive factors which I overlooked in such bias.
Li Yanming / Specially-appointed lecturer at the University of Tokyo
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala