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Reinterpreting the Sino-Japanese Political Relations through History

A Social Constructivist Analysis

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Reinterpreting the Sino-Japanese Political Relations through History

A Social Constructivist Analysis

Rechten: Alle rechten voorbehouden

Samenvatting

The 3rd of September, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Despite 70 years of peace in the Asia-Pacific, the memories of World War II are still the most evident obstruction in the Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations. Moreover, other issues, such as the dispute regarding the ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, and the overlapping Air Identification Defence Zone (AIDZ) of both countries contribute to the negative tension in the Sino-Japanese relations. The Asia-Pacific is becoming increasingly more volatile, and in case of military conflicts, the United States is legally obligated to assist Japan due to the Japan-US security treaty. Therefore, it can potentially turn into an international conflict. To provide an in-depth explanation, the following research question is used: How can the political relations between China and Japan be explained through the International Relations’ theory Social Constructivism, within a time frame from the 11th century towards the contemporary relations?
In order to verify Social Constructivism’s credibility, the literature review compared a variety of theories that were either derived from Social Constructivism, or constituted the opposite. In turn, this established this dissertation’s theoretical framework. Social Constructivism maintained the core of the framework, in which the concepts of Realist theories, the Social evolutionary learning approach, Culture, Identity, and Power acted as complementary concepts. Moreover, based on the Social Constructivist concepts of history, social interaction, beliefs, ideals, and culture, the choice was made to conduct research within a time frame from the 11th century to the contemporary relations. However, only the key events that affected the Sino-Japanese relations are examined. The methods that were used consisted of desk research only due to the value of Constructivist papers being in theoretical interpretation (Finnemore & Sikking, 2001). Furthermore, three approaches were applied: the comparative approach, the descriptive approach, and the exploratory approach.
Research indicated that Chinese learning as result of social interaction between the 11th century and the 16th century was pivotal for Japan’s cultural development. Moreover, striking similarities were found between China’s domestic Confucianism political structure and the structure of the international political system until mid-19th century. The result of social interaction was that in the tributary international system, China’s neighbouring states also adhered to Confucianism principles, which would confirm the impact of ideational forces guiding state behaviour. However, as agued by the Social evolutionary learning Approach, material factors such a geographical location, ought to be taken into account. This explains why Japan did not fully assimilate into China’s sphere of influence, since the country was disconnected from the mainland. In turn, it allowed Japan to be prone for ideational changes that resulted from interaction with the West/Europe. In turn, Western concepts of power that emphasized wealth and military prowess replaced the Asian concept of power, which was formerly defined as cultural knowledge and civilizational splendour according to Confucianism norms. Consequently, after 1868, Meiji Japan behaved accordingly to Western/European standards, thus justifying imperialist behaviour during World War I and World War II. Nevertheless, faced with Western/European Racism, Japan’s identity was neither that of a great power nor that of an Asian state. This brought the impetus of an ideational war against the West, albeit through Westernized imperialist behaviour by Japan. China remained ideationally resilient throughout history, impeding its modernization. Even in the contemporary relations, the social framework of guanxi emphasized reciprocity by downplaying conflicts in return for favours by the other. However, if conflicts are not resolved in the guanxi framework, conflicts can potential withstands the test of time in a past-oriented China.
Thus, research concluded that Social Constructivism alone cannot fully explain the Sino-Japanese relations. It fails to take into account the effects of material forces, such as military defeats, conceptions of power, geographical location, and the domestic political structures. However, with the help of this dissertation’s theoretical framework, it can be concluded that due to centuries of Sino-Japanese interaction, Japan developed as a future-oriented nation, while China remained past-oriented. For China, history will therefore always be of important, which will associate Japan with its identity of WWII-aggressor, despite Japan pacifistic attitude now.

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OrganisatieDe Haagse Hogeschool
OpleidingMO Europese Studies / European Studies
AfdelingFaculteit Management & Organisatie
Jaar2016
TypeBachelor
TaalEngels

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