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THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY:HISTORY, NATIONALISM, AND THE PROSPECTFOR PEACE IN POST-COLD WAR EAST ASIASheila Miyoshi JagerApril 2007Visit our website for other free publication .mil/To rate this publication click here.This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined inTitle 17, United States Code, Section 101. As such, it is in the public domain, and under the provisions of Title 17, United StatesCode, Section 105, it may not be copyrighted.

*****The views expressed in this report are those of the authorand do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of theDepartment of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S.Government. This report is cleared for public release; distributionis unlimited.*****Comments pertaining to this report are invited and should beforwarded to: Director, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army WarCollege, 122 Forbes Ave, Carlisle, PA 17013-5244.*****All Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) publications are availableon the SSI homepage for electronic dissemination. Hard copies ofthis report also may be ordered from our homepage. SSI’s homepage address is: www.StrategicStudiesInstitute.army.mil.*****The Strategic Studies Institute publishes a monthly e-mailnewsletter to update the national security community on the research of our analysts, recent and forthcoming publications, andupcoming conferences sponsored by the Institute. Each newsletter also provides a strategic commentary by one of our researchanalysts. If you are interested in receiving this newsletter, pleasesubscribe on our homepage at .ISBN 1-58487-289-6ii

FOREWORDBoth the Taiwan Strait and the Korean peninsulaharbor real dangers for the Northeast Asian region.The clash between an increasingly divergent nationalist identity in China and in Taiwan represents a newchallenge for U.S. policy in the region. Similarly, therise of pan-Korean nationalism in South Korea, and anunpredictable North Korean regime that has succeeded in driving a wedge between Seoul and Washington,has created another highly combustible zone of potential conflict.This monograph, by Dr. Sheila Miyoshi Jager, explores how the United States might respond to theemerging new nationalism in the region in order topromote stability and peace. Offering a constructivistapproach which highlights the central role that memory, history, and identity play in international relations,the monograph has wide-ranging implications for U.S.foreign policy.DOUGLAS C. LOVELACE, JR.DirectorStrategic Studies Instituteiii

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE AUTHORSHEILA MIYOSHI JAGER, an Associate Professor ofEast Asian Studies at Oberlin College, is currently aVisiting Research Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute. She is the authorof Narratives of Nation-Building in Korea: A Genealogy ofPatriotism (M. E. Sharpe, 2003) and (with Rana Mitter)Ruptured Histories: War, Memory, and the Post-Cold Warin Asia (Harvard University Press, 2007). She has published in numerous journals including Journal of AsianStudies, New Literary History, Public Culture, Positions:East Asia Cultures Critique, and Japan Focus. Dr. Jagerreceived her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago.iv

SUMMARYThe main source of regional instability and potential conflict in Northeast Asia consists of those factorsto which most international relations theorists havepaid the least attention, namely, issues of memory,identity, and nationalism. The potential for violentmilitary clashes in the Taiwan Strait and the Koreanpeninsula largely involve disputes over history andterritory, linked as they are to the unresolved legaciesof the Cold War: a divided Korean peninsula and adivided China. The “history disputes” that surroundthese divisions continue to be a source of instability forthe region. The clash between an increasingly divergentnational identity in China and in Taiwan represents anew challenge for U.S. policy on China. Moreover, itis reshaping the security environment in the TaiwanStrait in potentially destabilizing ways.Similarly, the rise of pan-Korean nationalism inSouth Korea is problematic. Motivated by the desire ofSouth Korea’s younger generation to seek reconciliation rather than confrontation with North Korea, it hasled to severe strains in U.S.-South Korean relations asboth Washington and Seoul attempt to resolve the ongoing North Korean nuclear crisis. Linked to the riseof new and competing nationalisms in the region isChina’s and South Korea’s suspicion of Japan and therise of neonationalism in that country. U.S. mishandling of these regional tensions involving questions ofidentity and interpretations of history could plungethe entire region inadvertently into war and conflict.This monograph reflects on how the United Statesmight respond to the emerging nationalisms in the region in order to promote stability and peace. Breaking

with both realist and liberal analysis, the monographoffers a constructivist approach which highlights thecentral role that memory, history, and identity play inthe international relations of the area, with wide-ranging implications for U.S. foreign policy.vi

THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY:HISTORY, NATIONALISM AND THE PROSPECTFOR PEACE IN POST-COLD WAR EAST ASIAIn an interview with Asian journalists on November8, 2005, President George W. Bush urged Asian nationals to put their past behind them “in order to overcomethe tensions standing in the way of an optimistic future.”1 He went on to say that “it is possible to forgetthe past . . . it’s difficult, but it is possible.” In a relatedspeech about the role of history in contemporary U.S.South Korean relations, Senator Hillary RodhamClinton chided South Korea for what she claimed wasa fog of “historical amnesia” that was clouding SouthKorea’s relationship with Washington.2 Warning thatthe U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance was at acritical juncture, she reminded South Koreans of theU.S. role in bringing about their country’s remarkableeconomic resurgence after the Korean War.President Bush was referring to the recent antiJapanese protests in China and South Korea, whileSenator Clinton was speaking of rising anti-Americansentiments in South Korea and strains in the U.S.ROK alliance over the North Korean nuclear issue. Ineach case, America’s policymakers are beginning torecognize the vital role of national memory in shapingcontemporary events, although how memory is linkedto the emergence of a new post-Cold War order in EastAsia is less understood.While current debates on the future of internationalrelations in Northeast Asia have focused mostly onsecurity dilemma, balance of power, and neoliberalcooperation theory in predicting the prospects foreither regional tension or prolonged peace in the

region, the vital role of memory, national identity, andhistory in influencing Northeast Asia’s new strategicalignments and emerging international tensions hasnot yet been seriously addressed by internationalrelations scholars or the American policy community.3Academic analyses of the causes of conflict have lookedto structural theories of international relations (balanceof power, opportunities for trade, and so on) and largelydiscounted ideas and culture as causal variables. Butas Thomas Berger has pointed out, “This gap in theacademic analyses has practical consequences. In theabsence of theoretically grounded models that canexplain which particular factors are important andwhy, it is impossible to articulate a foreign policythat addresses them as issues.”4 At best, the historydisputes that currently plague relations betweenChina, South Korea, and Japan have been treated asmere epiphenomena, that is, as being reflective ofother, underlying forces of the self-interested state.Perhaps the most common manifestation of thisdebate, extending to the future of the Northeast Asianregion in general, is the disagreement between socalled liberal optimists and realist pessimists.5 By andlarge, liberals take the view that the future of NortheastAsian relations will be basically stable and peaceful,pointing to the leavening effects of the economicinterdependence of the region, while realist pessimistsexpect confrontation and conflict due to the new powerdynamic of a rising China. The implicit assumptionunderlying both these views about the current stateof Northeast Asian relations, however, is that all unitsin global politics have the same a priori interests tofurther their material power, whether economic ormilitary. As mere symbolic manifestations of thesematerial interests, the emotional debates surrounding

the history of World War II and Japanese colonialismare treated as mere shibboleths of competing elites whoseize on popular ideas to propagate and legitimize theirown self-interests; the ideas themselves do not play acausal role in formulating policy. For realists, the recentshowdown between Beijing and Tokyo over historyis merely a symbolic manifestation of the new andemerging great power struggles between a rising Chinaand a declining Japan, while for liberals, the historyproblem that currently plagues relations in NortheastAsia has been largely treated as an impediment thateventually will be resolved by the forces of economiccooperation and eventual regional integration.6But as David Shambaugh has pointed out, the tendency to construct procrustean theories and the driveto establish the superiority of one school of thoughtover another have led to an approach that hindersefforts to understand the complexities of real worldpolitics: “Unfortunately, there is no single conceptualmetamodel sufficient to describe the evolving Asiansystem; one size does not fit all.”7 Moreover, if weconcede that the history problem in contemporaryNortheast Asian international relations is linked closelynot only to questions of power and cooperation, butalso to new notions of national identity and legitimacy,and that perceptions of the past are connectedintimately with the meaning and cohesion that socialgroups confer upon themselves, then the way in whichhistory currently is being debated in China, Japan,Taiwan, and South Korea has direct consequencesfor future political action and international relations.Questions of national identity and legitimacy cannotbe understood deductively or theoretically, and to theextent that Asia’s modern history of war has left anindelible imprint on these societies’ views of the world

and of each other, the current history disputes willcontinue to play a significant role in shaping the futurerelations of states in Northeast Asia.To a large extent, these disputed histories areproducts of the unfinished legacy of the Cold War era.The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to sustainedefforts to rediscover and rewrite the past which, in EastAsia, has included both the history of the Second SinoJapanese War (1937-45), the Chinese Civil War (194549), and the Korean War (1950-53). Unlike in Europe,however, the Cold War has not ended in Asia. Risingnationalism in China is a symptom of a nation in needof a new identity in the wake of global communism’scollapse, and what brings the history problem(particularly, the history of the Second Sino-JapaneseWar) to the fore diplomatically is precisely the searchfor new sources of Chinese “post-communist” identity.The rise of neonationalism in Japan is the result ofnew domestic pressures by “normal state” advocatesto return to a pre-1945 world of statehood defined interms of the right of belligerency.8 Similarly, in SouthKorea, a new generation of leaders is seeking to healthe wounds of national division inflicted by the KoreanWar by reconciliation, rather than confrontation, withNorth Korea.This search for a “post-communist” identity inChina, a “post-1945 identity” in Japan, or a “postdivision identity” in South Korea, however, is notsolely the prerogative of government elites who seekto maintain their power. The use by elites of growingpopular nationalism as a powerful propaganda toolto prop up state interests blinds us to the critical rolethat people and passions play in politics. For example,popular Chinese reactions to former Japanese PrimeMinister Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which

honors Japan’s war dead (including 14 World War IIera Class A war criminals), cannot be explained awayby the machinations of Chinese state-party interestswith complete power and control over the nationalistdiscourse. Similarly, the nationalist rhetoric emergingin contemporary South Korea, which seeks to includeits old Cold War enemy North Korea in a new storyof pan-Korean unity and identity, cannot be explainedaway by the persuasive skills of South Korea’s newleftist government elites. These phenomena suggestthe need for an explanation that recognizes the intrinsicpower of the nationalist ideas themselves and how thesubstantive content of these ideas—about people’sperceptions of their past and their future—really matterfor policy.A serious effort to study the impact of nationalidentity on contemporary East Asian internationalrelations also opens up the possibility of exploringthe category of ideas and notions of identity asevolving entities amenable to change. Far from a staticidentity as embedded in an unchanging symbologyof a strategic culture or as reflective of a particularEast Asian historical pattern, national identities aremutable, with significant world events impacting andradically changing peoples’ national self-conceptionsand identities.9 The changing balance of power in EastAsia following the collapse of the Cold War geopoliticalworld order has created conditions for changes in theway in which the wartime past is being evaluated, andin forces shaping these countries’ new nationalist selfconceptions.As long “forgotten” war crimes are suddenlybrought out into the open for public inspection (likethe Korean comfort women issue in South Korea andthe 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China), other war crimes

are being reburied in the name of reestablishing thebonds of community torn apart by the Cold War (acase in point being the two Koreas). These exhumationsand reburials of the past play an important part inthe story of Northeast Asia’s post-Cold War politicaltransformations. Challenges to U.S. policy in NortheastAsia that are linked to the current history disputesin the region include contested borders, shiftingconfigurations of military power and diplomaticperceptions, and possible redefinitions of nationalsecurity objectives among the East Asian countries.The main sources of regional instability andpotential conflict in Northeast Asia are thus thosewhich, ironically, most international relations theoristshave paid the least attention to, primarily becausethey are the kinds of variables that typically aredownplayed in contemporary international relationstheory, namely, issues of memory, identity, andnationalism. As Thomas Berger observes, “The chiefsource of instability in the region today lies in thepeculiar construction of national identity and intereston the part of the chief actors in the region.”10 Relyingon insights from the so-called constructivist approachto international relations, this monograph aims toexamine the current history disputes in China, SouthKorea, Taiwan, and Japan in the context of post-ColdWar Asian politics, including the consequences of theserecent developments for U.S. policy in Northeast Asia. 11There are two areas of particular concern in this connection: the fundamentally irreconcilable nationalistmovements in China and Taiwan, and the unresolvedissue of national unification on the Korean peninsula.The potential for violent military clashes in the TaiwanStrait and the Korean peninsula, which could plungethe entire region into chaos, largely involves disputes

over history and territory linked to the unresolvedlegacies of the Cold War.12The monograph is divided into two interrelatedsections. The first section begins with a discussionof the rise of nationalisms in China and Taiwan, andhow each is linked, on the one hand, to China’s “new”memories of World War II (including the brutal rolethat Japan played in that conflict), and, on the other,to Taiwan’s “new” memories of the Chinese Civil War(1945-49) and Guomindang (Chinese Nationalist Party,or GMD) oppression. Accompanying the rise of Chinesenationalism that is linked to the memory of China’shistorical victimization by Japan and the West has beenthe simultaneous emergence of Taiwanese nationalismas Taiwan’s leaders attempt to balance their searchfor an autonomous political identity with the externalconstraints imposed on that identity. The clash betweenincreasingly divergent national identities in China andTaiwan represents a new challenge for U.S. policy onChina and is reshaping the security environment in theTaiwan Strait in potentially destabilizing ways.The second section explores competing nationalmemories and interests as they concern the division ofthe Korean peninsula, and regional efforts to resolvethe ongoing North Korean nuclear crisis. Central tothis issue is the rise of pan-Korean nationalism in SouthKorea, and how new memories of the Korean War, andof North Korea’s role in this brutal conflict, have led tosevere strains in Seoul’s relationship with Washingtonas South Koreans seek reconciliation, not confrontation,with Pyongyang. In order to preserve the U.S.-SouthKorean alliance and find a resolution to the ongoingNorth Korean nuclear crisis, the United States will needto rethink its relationship with Pyongyang, includingways to finally end the Korean War. Recent new

developments toward these goals are encouraging. OnFebruary 13, 2007, a historic deal was struck in Beijing,commencing the process of the denuclearization ofthe Korean peninsula.13 The monograph concludeswith some reflections on how the United States mightrespond to the changing geopolitical dynamics andemerging new nationalisms in Northeast Asia, and onwhat they mean for U.S. future policy in the region.Overcoming a “Century of Humiliation”:The Taiwan Problem.Efforts to rewrite the past often occur during periodsof momentous change.14 This is particularly true ofChina, where the memory and meaning of WorldWar II have undergone considerable reevaluations inrecent years and have played a central role in the riseof popular nationalism in that country.The role of historical memory in the configurationof a new Chinese post-Cold War identity becomesclear when one considers that the People’s Republicof China (PRC) has taken little notice of the War ofResistance to Japan (Kang-ri zhanzheng), as the SecondSino-Japanese war (1937-45) war is known in China.Although stylized versions of the conflict were found insources such as Cultural Revolution-era model operas,for the most part, Mao downplayed the memory of thewar—and Chinese victimization—in order to focuson more positive aspects of China’s past that wouldserve as a model for building its communist future.15As Rana Mitter has remarked, “In one sense, China’snew awareness of its anti-Japanese conflict is part ofa process by which its attitude toward its history isbecoming more normal. For all other major powersinvolved in World War II, victorious or defeated,

engagement with their war experience was crucial forcreating postwar identity.”16But to a large extent this engagement with the wardid not happen in China. This was in large part dueto the way in which China moved from the WorldWar to the Cold War. By 1946, the Nationalists andthe Communists were at war, and the eventual victoryof the Communists in 1949 meant that a balancedtreatment of the earlier conflict was impossible. Thefact that Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists had played asignificant role in defeating the Japanese could not bediscussed easily after the Communist victory in 1949.Moreover, Mao’s policies often permitted the Jap

Asia, has included both the history of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-45), the Chinese Civil War (1945-49), and the Korean War (1950-53). Unlike in Europe, however, the Cold War has not ended in Asia. Rising nationalism in China is a symptom of a nation in need of a new identity in the wake of global communism’s

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