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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:33 03/09/2007
Commentary (June 30, 2004)

Envisioning the Asian Consortium for Political Research in the New Century

Takashi INOGUCHI (Professor, University of Tokyo)

(Note: This speech text, delivered at the "Constitutional Meeting of the Asian Consortium for Political Research" in Seoul on June 5, 2004, was presented as a key reference material at the Science Council of Japan Symposium, "Building Intellectual Bridges in Asia," in Tokyo on June 15.)

1. Two Old Asias

In the past there were two Asias: stagnant Asia and autocratic Asia. Stagnant Asia has been propounded by many pundits, most famously by Marx and Wittfogel. Autocratic Asia has been propounded by many philosophers, most famously by Montaigne and Hegel. Stagnant Asia and autocratic Asia go hand in hand in the minds of many persons, not just among pundits and philosophers. There two Asias were effectively broken down one by one in the course of history. There developments are most noteworthy in bringing about the reorientation of Asia.

The first is the decreasing importance of major state wars often associated with colonialism and imperialism. The Second World War defeated and critically weakened such forces. In the past quarter of the last century major war occurrence has decreased in its frequency dramatically. Also strategic nuclear war potentials have been steadily reduced by the end of the Cold War.

The second is the resilient momentum for economic development. The Economist magazine famously heralded the advent of prosperous Asia has awakened. In the third quarter of the last century, dynamic Asia was born, liberating itself from stagnant Asia. A newly industrializing Asia has sprung up and spearheaded regional dynamism. In the last quarter of the last century China joined the regional leapfrog economic development.

The third is the robust force of democratization. The famously published Third Wave by Samuel Huntington exploded in Asia as well in the last quarter of the last century. One by one the autocratic Asia has been undermined by democratic Asia. It looks as if the process knew no bounds. The latest events in Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere attest this. The Economist magazine called this the second miracle of Asia, following the first miracle of Asia, the economic miracle.

Instead of zero growth as perpetuated by Marx and Wifffogel, Asia thrives by leaps and bounds. Instead of freedom for one person, as characterized by Montaigne and Hegel, Asia has exemplified increasingly robust democracy.

2. New Asia

So far the developmental and democratizing trends of Asia have been noted to break out from stagnant Asia and autocratic Asia. Once developmentally and democratically thriving Asia has come about, the next trend which is coming along is regionalizing Asia. Instead of stagnant an autocratic Asia sitting separately among its sub-units and interacting more frequently between Asia sub-units and their former suzerains, Asia is now self standing and socializing among themselves as well. A glance at the frequency and density of political leaders meeting each other for the last decade attests this. Another glance at the volume of transactions among Asia, especially East and Southeast Asia, in terms of trade flows, direct investment, capital flows and all the else, is sufficient to convince one of a newly regionalizing Asia. Not only an increasingly prosperous and democratizing but also interacting Asia is emerging.

Out of increasingly dense interactions among Asian sub-units emerges an ideationalizing Asia, an Asia, which is to pride itself of being the power of ideas. Instead of bemoaning the power of power, a new Asia aims at excelling itself as an ocean of ideas. Instead of treading the past path of some major powers of different persuasions, a new Asia aims at aspiring to become the power of ideas. It is in this context in which the idea of the Asian Consortium for Political Research has emerged.

The Asian Consortium for Political Research aims above all at fostering scholarly interactions among Asian political scientists. It aims at creating a best forum for Asian political scientists. It is more ambitious than creating a best scholarly forum for Asian political scientists. It aims at helping Asian political scientists to come up with useful ideas to materialize good governance in this rapidly evolving region, thus helping the peoples and governments of Asia to construct a new Asia, as a region of peace, prosperity and creativity. One cannot overemphasize the painful adjustments that one has to make at an era of epochal changes. Surely one can be proud of Asian dynamism. But dynamism means also a large degree of uncertainty intermittently lurking on the horizon. One needs to see to it that such change would neither poison developmental momentum nor jeopardize a democratizing trend. All this strengthens our belief that the Asian Consortium for Political Research should avail itself for the admirable it somewhat daunting task of addressing challenges of the day through nurturing and enabling scholarly interactions among Asian academics.

A new Asia is being created. Surely it cannot be created de novo. But it can avoid mistakes committed in the past. The Asian Consortium for Political Research should become a driving force of fostering dense interactions among scholars who, by professional socialization processes, believe in the power of ideas rather than the power of power. A new Asia, peaceful, prosperous and creative, is to be spearheaded by the Asian Consortium of Political Research as well as millions of such paralleling efforts undertaken by the peoples and governments of Asia. We are witnessing the historic moment of the birth of a new entity, called The Asian Consortium for Political Research. We firmly believe in its future. From now on we join our forces to enable the Asian Consortium for Political Research to achieve its missions.

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