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Memories and the exigencies of national interest: an analysis of post Cold War Sino-Japanese and Sino-Russian strategic relations and perceptions

Teo, Victor E. (2007) Memories and the exigencies of national interest: an analysis of post Cold War Sino-Japanese and Sino-Russian strategic relations and perceptions. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The primary focus of this dissertation is to examine how social memories of major historical conflicts and confrontations affect the mutual strategic perceptions and the corresponding bilateral relations between China and her two closest neighbours - Japan and Russia. Despite the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet threat, Japan has not moved away from the United States strategically in order to balance US hegemony in the Asia Pacific. Japan instead chose to reaffirm the US-Japan security alliance in order to balance against a perceived rising China. At the same time, Russia rather than forging a closer relationship with the United States as predicted, instead sought to form a "strategic partnership" with China to counter US hegemony. While structural realists tell us that these could be explained as strategic balancing acts of states (against hegemony or threat), structural realism does not tell us when states choose to balance against threats and when states choose to balance against hegemony. The theoretical lens of economic interdependency does not quite adequately accounts for the behavior of these states in the post Cold War era either. Russia and China befuddle economic interdependency theorists with their warm political ties and low key economic relations, as do China and Japan with their vibrant economic relations but appallingly estranged political relationship. Various studies have pointed to the "history" factor as being responsible for this state of affair, but given that both Japan and Russia have pursued imperialistic policies towards China in the past hundred years, why should the PRC have so much antagonism with Japan but paradoxically enjoy close ties with Russia. The thesis therefore attempts to answer the theoretical puzzle posed by this abnormal state of affairs in post Cold War Asia-Pacific International Relations. The basic research question therefore asks if states are capable of bearing "grudges", and if so, why and how does this affect their foreign and security policy. In other words, what impact do memories of past conflicts or antagonism have for the behaviour of states. Drawing from the Constructivist literature, the thesis attempts to fill a theoretical lacuna posited by this empirical puzzle. The thesis weld the notion of social memories to Constructivism and in doing so, reflect how this approach can help examine the strategic movements of China, Japan and Russia in post Cold War Asia-Pacific, which economic interdependency and structural realism cannot adequately explain. The thesis argues that it is important to understand national interests in the ideational sense as much as it is to understand it in the material sense (as advocated by structural realism). Therefore, defending elements of a country's national identity (e.g. saying that a "correct" vision of history should be adopted) would be as equally important as defending a country's material interests. The thesis argues for the importance of social memories as a crucial element behind the change and continuity in each country's national identities. Without understanding the social memories in each country, one would not be able to comprehend the changes behind the national identities espoused by these states and their evolving definition of national interests (hence perception of various issues). At the same time, since constructivism emphasises the dialectical interactions between agency and structure, social memories are therefore not just important for the constitution of a state's identity and interests but also provide a social structure that shapes the state's foreign policy and bilateral relations. By advancing the notion of social memories to understand the research problematic, the thesis shows that it is possible for the "grudge" to build up and persist well beyond the conclusion of a conflict or confrontation. The genesis of this "grudge" therefore depends on the level of reconciliation and subsequent interactions and discourse relating to the conflict or confrontation. All these interactions are remembered and deposited into the social memory of the country which subsequently influences the definition of national identity, national interests and nationalism. The thesis maintains that in the Sino-Japanese case, there is actually very little reconciliation, and even if diplomatic gestures are made at the governmental level, it does not have the "trickle down" effect on the Chinese and Japanese nations respectively. In doing so, the thesis demonstrates that social memories are intricately linked to a very divergent evolution of national identities and mutual negative images in post-Cold War Japan and China. (Abstract shortened by UMI.).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, International Relations
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > International Relations

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