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Seminars & Symposiums

Lecture -- "Has China’s Power Increased with its Rise?"

2013-11-22 (Fri) 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

The idea that China’s rise is producing a power shift in East Asia is widely discussed both in academia, media and political circles. The power shift is often understood as involving an increased power on behalf of China and a decrease in the power of Japan and/or the United States. But has China’s power increased with its rise? If we approach this question on the basis of the conventional realist understanding of power as material capabilities it should be obvious that China’s power has indeed increased significantly both in terms of economic and military capabilities. That the possession of capabilities necessarily leads to a greater influence over other actors is often uncritically accepted. Yet, such an understanding can (and ought to) be problematized. The important question to ask is arguably whether China’s boosted material capabilities has increased its capacity to produce effects. While conventional wisdom in the study of international politics would suggest that an increase in the possession of material capabilities on the behalf of a state ought to strengthen its ability to produce effects this proposition needs to be tested empirically.

The presentation addresses the question of whether China’s ability to produce effects has increased with its rise through an analysis of discursive power, i.e. the ability to produce effects through the use of discourse. China’s use of war history in Sino-Japanese relations is arguably the most conspicuous example of discursive power in the bilateral relationship and is therefore used as a case study. Has China’s rise, as might be expected, increased its ability to use the past politically and thereby produce effects? To answer this question, the presentation introduces a three-level theory of the use of discursive power to influence other actors. The three levels analysed are the domestic, bilateral and international levels.

Contrary to what might be assumed, the presentation demonstrates that the Chinese government’s ability to use discourses about the past for political purposes in Sino-Japanese relations was actually greater before its alleged rise. The more the Chinese government has attempted to use discourses about the past, the more it has enabled other actors to promote their agendas. Domestically, the Chinese government was able to increase its legitimacy by emphasizing war history. Yet, its heavy reliance on war memory for legitimacy has subsequently made it possible for activists to argue for a more hard-line approach against Japan that arguably limits the government’s foreign policy options. Bilaterally, the Chinese government used to be able to produce substantial effects in the form of Official Development Aid (ODA) and other concessions from Japan through reference to war history. However, it seems is no longer able to produce such effects. Instead, the use of what in Japan is often described as ‘anti-Japanese’ history education has contributed to enabling discussions about Japanese foreign policy reform. Internationally, the Japanese government has started to challenge recent Chinese attempts to use the past for public diplomacy purposes through similar appeals to the international community.

Date: 2013-11-22 (Fri) 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Organizer: Sugita Office, Graduate School of Language and Culture
Venue: Learning Exchange Rm., 3rd F, Buillding E, Minoh campus
Registration: Not necessary.
Contact: Sugita Office, Graduate School of Language and Culture

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