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date: 01 March 2021

East Asia and Foreign Policylocked

  • Enyu ZhangEnyu ZhangDepartment of International Studies, Seattle University
  •  and Qingmin ZhangQingmin ZhangSchool of International Studies, Peking University

Summary

The study of East Asian foreign policies has progressed in sync with mainstream international relations (IR) theories: (1) from perhaps an inadvertent or unconscious coincidence with realism during the Cold War to consciously using different theoretical tools to study the various aspects of East Asian foreign policies; and (2) from the dominance of realism to a diversity of theories in studying East Asian foreign policies. Nonetheless, the old issues from the Cold War have not been resolved; the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait remain two flashpoints in the region, with new twists that can derail regional stability and prosperity. New issues also have emerged and made East Asia most volatile. One issue is concerned with restructuring the balance of power in East Asia, particularly the dynamics among the major players, i.e. Japan, China, and the United States. Regionalism is another new topic in the study of East Asian foreign policies. A review of the current state of the field suggests that two complementary issues be given priority in the future. First, the foreign policy interests and strategies of individual small states vis-à-vis great powers in the region, particularly those in Southeast Asia and the Korean peninsula. Second, what could really elevate the study of East Asian foreign policies in the general field of IR and foreign policy analysis is to continue exploring innovative analytical frameworks that can expand the boundaries of existing metatheories and paradigms.

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