The so-called history problem has long been seen by academics and pundits as a key obstacle to the improvement of bilateral relations between China and Japan. In the academic literature, the problem is typically described as consisting of a number of sub-issues related primarily to Japan’s attitude towards its invasion of China in the 1930s and 1940s, an attitude that many regard as insufficiently repentant. In this literature the meaning of the history problem tends to be understood as fixed rather than as something that changes over time. Even though numerous discussions of the problem exist and many observers agree on its importance for Sino-Japanese relations, the question of how the history problem itself is understood within Japan and China has received surprisingly scant attention. This article, by contrast, argues that while the specific sub-issues viewed as being part of the problem are indeed important, currently the most fundamental and overlooked aspect of the history problem in Sino-Japanese relations is the lack of agreement on what exactly the problem is.
Elizabeth Shakman Hurd is Professor of Political Science and Religious Studies at Northwestern University. Professor Hurd’s latest book Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion (Princeton, 2015) has attracted international attention by framing important debates around what the author believes is a problematic intersection of policy, religion and political interest in global affairs today. In this interview she discusses the implications of her scholarship and where she believes the study of religion in IR is headed.
What motivated you to write your latest book Beyond Religious Freedom?
Beyond Religious Freedom is my response to what I see as a need to rethink how we approach the study of religion and politics in the field of international relations. There’s been a gold-rush mentality lately as scholars scurry to ‘get religion right’ – but many of these efforts are confused, or even troubling. The problem, as I discuss in more detail elsewhere, is that international relations ‘got religion’ but got it wrong. Beyond Religious Freedom encourages scholars to step back from the political fray. It neither celebrates religion for its allegedly peaceful potential nor condemns it for its allegedly violent tendencies. Instead, I propose a new conceptual framework for the study of religion and public life. It accounts for the gaps and tensions that I perceived between the large-scale international legal, political and religious engineering projects undertaken in the name of religious freedom, toleration, and rights, and the realities of the individuals and communities subjected to these efforts.
Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here
During 2016, our mediation perspectives blog covered a variety of topics. We wrote about avenues for Research on Mediation; we honoured deceased mediators; we considered the value of Early Warning/Early Response mechanisms; we looked at national dialogue in Colombia, and we even wrote about the role of meditation in mediation. As the new editor of the Mediation Perspectives blog series, I’d like to round up the year with a more every-day focused blog entry – which should be read with a healthy dose of humour. So, here is today’s question: How can basic mediation techniques help you to avoid fighting at your Christmas Family dinner? (For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, this question is of course applicable to a wide range of big family gatherings.)
The day is here, guests will arrive in a few hours, you’ve set up the table and the decorations, and now you want to sit down to watch a bit of TV and to relax while waiting. The smell of cooking from the kitchen is tempting, and why not pre-taste tonight’s dinner? You go to the kitchen where your wife is busy snipping and steering (Yes, “wife”; if we are honest, in most families it’s still the women who do the cooking, right?) and you help yourself to a spoonful of stew. You smile at your wife, say “just needs a bit of salt”, and walk back to the living room. Or so you thought, because she now starts screaming at you, calling you a lazy bum and threatens to throw the stew out of the window if “monsieur” doesn’t like it. You turn, look at her and say: “What? Throwing out the stew, are you crazy!”
In today’s blog, Michael Chase and Jeffrey Engstrom face off against Roger Cliff on China’s ongoing military reforms. The two ‘optimists’ believe the reforms will help blunt corruption, strengthen civilian control over the PLA, and modernize the armed forces. Roger Cliff, in contrast, argues that the reforms won’t resolve two of the PLA’s most glaring weaknesses – its limited joint capabilities and the continued dominance of the army.
China’s Military Reforms: An Optimistic Take
China is implementing a sweeping reorganization of its military that has the potential to be the most important in the post-1949 history of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).1 Xi Jinping, who serves as China’s president, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), seeks to transform the PLA into a fully modernized and “informatized” fighting force capable of carrying out joint combat operations, conducting military operations other than war (MOOTW), and providing a powerful strategic deterrent to prevent challenges to China’s interests and constrain the decisions of potential adversaries. Scheduled for completion by 2020, the reforms aim to place the services on a more even footing in the traditionally army-dominated PLA and to enable the military to more effectively harness space, cyberspace, and electronic warfare capabilities. Simultaneously, Xi is looking to rein in PLA corruption and assert his control over the military.
On Sept. 10, 2016, the U.S.-brokered a ceasefire with Russia and Syria in the besieged city of Aleppo. Although low-intensity fighting never really stopped, the ceasefire didn’t begin to fall apart until a week later, when U.S. aircraft mistakenly killed about 80 Syrian troops.
The killings heightened tensions between the United States and Russia, who had agreed to the ceasefire with the aim of negotiating a combined effort against Islamic State and Al Qaeda-linked fighters. By Sept. 21, the ceasefire collapsed — and the following day, the Syrian government announced a new military offensive to retake Aleppo.
The offensive featured some of the most intensive ground combat and bombing of the entire war, costing hundreds of lives within the span of just a few days. The humanitarian cost on the ground was described by U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien as “a level of savagery that no human should have to endure.”