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This chapter first introduces the conceptual components of deep interstate reconciliation and uses this conceptual framework to develop an operational definition of the term. It then lays out the basic assumptions and causal mechanisms of realist theory and national mythmaking theory and infers testable predictions from these two theories for postconflict international relations. The chapter concludes with responses to challenges from alternative theoretical perspectives, including the democratic peace theory, commercial and sociological liberalism, and regionalism and security community theory.
CONCEPTUALIZING DEEP INTERSTATE RECONCILIATION
The concept of reconciliation can be understood simply as “restoring friendship, harmony, or communion” between two parties, of which either one or both experienced trauma in the past. In international relations, the traumatic experiences of a state usually originate in protracted, destructive conflicts with external actors. Such conflicts not only cause massive combat casualties but also often involve gross violations of human rights and even national annexation, territorial loss, or pillaging of important national resources. Besides, states suffer the psychological wounds of humiliation while enduring horrendous physical damage. These historical injustices generate deep-rooted collective sorrow and grief that become national trauma, predisposing former enemy states to mutual enmity. To attain reconciliation is to overcome such enmity stemming from the traumatic past.
Germany and Poland, the two Central and Eastern European neighbors, experienced enduring, traumatic conflicts with one another in modern history, which culminated in the immensely destructive World War II. After the war, the danger of military confrontation continued to haunt the two countries as they were separately allied with the United States and the Soviet Union. However insurmountable the historical and structural hurdles to reconciliation between these countries seemed to be, their relationship began to improve starting in the early 1970s and approached the stage of deep reconciliation in the 1990s. I argue that German-Polish reconciliation to a significant extent can be attributed to the institutional measures of historical settlement that began in the 1970s, including German restitution to Poland and bilateral cooperation among historians. Endorsed at a time when the systemic conditions turned favorable, these efforts nurtured a positive mutual image and trust that cushioned the impact of negative international conditions in the 1980s and paved the way for eventual reconciliation between the unified Germany and Poland after the Cold War.
This chapter begins with an introduction of the historical background of German-Polish relations and divides the reconciliation process after WWII into four periods. Subsequent sections apply realist and national mythmaking theories to each period and assess their relative explanatory power.
The Chinese and Japanese nations are intimately related, not only from the point of view of communications but in all other respects as well. There is a saying among the people of both countries that China and Japan are brother nations, whose people are of a similar race and culture; that, therefore, they should join hands in common effort.
– Sun Yat-sen, November 28, 1924
In parallel with the European case, I divide postwar Sino-Japanese relations into four periods. In the 1950s and 1960s, China and Japan were in a state of nonreconciliation, treating each other as enemies and preparing for an immediate violent conflict. In the second period, from 1972 through 1981, bilateral relations improved to the stage of shallow reconciliation–rapprochement, in which bilateral political and economic cooperation expanded smoothly but failed to reach a comprehensive level, and warm feelings developed between the two peoples as a product of political manipulation and romanticized imagination rather than true mutual understanding and trust. The third period began in the early 1980s, when the atmosphere of friendship was replaced by friction and alienation in both governmental and popular dimensions, marking a relationship downturn from rapprochement to friction within the stage of shallow reconciliation. Japan and China also began to bicker about war history in the 1980s, something that they rarely did in the previous two periods.
This chapter explains the significant progress in Sino-Japanese reconciliation from the two nations' diplomatic normalization in 1972 to the beginning of the 1980s. Because of the escalation of the Sino-Soviet split and the dramatic rapprochement between China and the United States, from the beginning of the 1970s China and Japan faced a common Soviet enemy. Given such positive structural conditions, realist theory would predict that the two countries should have reached deep reconciliation. In reality, Sino-Japanese political relations indeed entered a short-lived “honeymoon” period, with considerably reduced expectations of bilateral conflict, mutual national recognition, and prospering economic interaction and societal contacts. Yet overall, the relationship progressed only to the stage of shallow reconciliation–rapprochement, falling short of deep reconciliation. Bilateral security cooperation was seriously limited, and the two governments also failed to permanently resolve outstanding sovereignty controversies regarding Taiwan and offshore islands. Their commercial ties lacked interdependence in any strategic sense, and the atmosphere of popular friendship was largely simulated by government propaganda rather than built on genuine mutual understanding.
Reasons for the absence of deep reconciliation include Japan's fear of being dragged into the Sino-Soviet conflict if it drew too close to China and obstruction from the pro-Taiwan faction in Japan of a tight relationship with China. Another important restraining factor in the reconciliation process was the negative impact of war memory.
In the aftermath of traumatic conflicts, why have some former enemy countries managed to establish durable peace whereas others remain mired in animosity? Does historical memory play an important role in shaping postconflict interstate relationships? This book has two main goals: to explore the origins of interstate reconciliation and to generalize causal links between historical ideas and international relations. Both are understudied but extremely important subjects in the field of international relations.
I argue that the key to realizing deep reconciliation is the harmonization of national memories between the parties involved. The memory divergence that comes about as a result of national mythmaking tends to harm the long-term prospects of reconciliation. As H. Richard Niebuhr says in The Meaning of Revelation, “Where common memory is lacking, where [people] do not share in the same past, there can be no real community, and where community is to be formed common memory must be created.…[T]he measure of our unity is the extent of our common memory.”
This line of argument directly challenges the standard realist explanation of international relations. For a hard-nosed realist concerned primarily about power, reconciliation is equated with political and military cooperation that should occur when states have common strategic interests, and the remembering and forgetting of traumatic history are irrelevant to reconciliation. This book, on the other hand, proposes the concept of deep interstate reconciliation, which is posited on the assumption that countries share the understanding that war is unthinkable and hold generally amicable feelings toward each other.
Over the course of the 1980s, Sino-Japanese relations degraded. The overall cordial atmosphere in the 1970s was replaced by frequent intergovernmental disputes and simmering mutual antipathy at the popular level – both typical features of the shallow reconciliation–friction stage of interstate reconciliation. International structural conditions fail to explain this relationship downturn, as China and Japan still shared a common strategic interest to balance the Soviet threat. Instead, it was mainly the changing pattern of national mythmaking in China and Japan that accounted for the setback in bilateral reconciliation. From the early 1980s, the national memory of both countries entered a stage of renegotiation and reconstruction wherein the mainstream national myths were challenged and reshaped by both top-down moves of the ruling elites to adapt to their new political needs and bottom-up trends from social groups and the public. In Japan, conservative elites perpetuated self-glorifying and self-whitewashing myths, in part to shake off the war stigma and justify a more muscular international strategy, but the mainstream conservative historiography encountered stronger domestic and international objections. In China, domestic political needs to enhance regime legitimacy and facilitate social mobilization drove the government to promote victim consciousness and other-maligning myths regarding war history. These changes shattered the previous memory quasi-convergence between China and Japan and caused their history disputes to heat up.
A close examination of the various aspects of the bilateral relationship during this period suggests that the emotional and psychological effects of these history disputes exacerbated mutual perceptions of threat, poisoned popular relations, and stimulated public opposition to diplomatic compromises during a period of bilateral sovereignty and economic friction.
In the aftermath of traumatic conflict, erstwhile adversaries Germany and Poland have made significant progress toward deep reconciliation, whereas China and Japan remain politically and emotionally alienated. Having examined these two cases with different reconciliation outcomes, this book concludes that a history of conflict does not doom states to future conflict. Instead, how the memory of the conflict is constructed and manipulated largely shapes the likelihood of reconciliation. Elite mythmaking of national history to fulfill immediate practical goals can bring about substantial divergence between the memories of former adversaries and spur both mutual perception of hostile intentions and virulent popular emotions. Although international structural incentives are instrumental in scrapping certain barriers to intergovernmental cooperation, without curbing pernicious historical myths and fostering bilateral historiographic convergence, a state of deep trust and harmony between former combatant governments and their corresponding societies will not truly arise.
This conclusion is borne out by the testing of realist theory and national mythmaking theory against the cases of post–WWII Sino-Japanese and German-Polish relations in the previous chapters. As illustrated in Table 7.1, the predictions of realist theory fit the reconciliation outcomes in only half of the total of eight subcases. It is true that a certain degree of compatibility between states' security interests is useful to enable the reconciliation process. Even in the European case, the trend of historical settlement did not appear until East-West détente created a more relaxed external environment for the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and Poland to develop formal contacts.
Why have some former enemy countries established durable peace while others remain mired in animosity? When and how does historical memory matter in post-conflict interstate relations? Focusing on two case studies, Yinan He argues that the key to interstate reconciliation is the harmonization of national memories. Conversely, memory divergence resulting from national mythmaking harms long-term prospects for reconciliation. After WWII, Sino-Japanese and West German-Polish relations were both antagonized by the Cold War structure, and pernicious myths prevailed in national collective memory. In the 1970s, China and Japan brushed aside historical legacy for immediate diplomatic normalization. But the progress of reconciliation was soon impeded from the 1980s by elite mythmaking practices that stressed historical animosities. Conversely, from the 1970s West Germany and Poland began to de-mythify war history and narrowed their memory gap through restitution measures and textbook cooperation, paving the way for significant progress toward reconciliation after the Cold War.
Sino-Japanese relations enjoyed temporary serenity in the early 1990s only to deteriorate again from the mid-1990s, marked by renewed sovereignty disputes over Taiwan, offshore islands, and maritime rights, and the politicization of Japanese aid policy to China as well as a downward spiral in popular image. So the relationship stagnated at the shallow reconciliation–friction stage. Structural conditions correctly predict the increased bilateral tension resulting from the end of the Cold War. What remains unexplained is the four- to five-year time lag between the dissipation of the common Soviet threat at the end of the 1980s and the sharp increase of Sino-Japanese tension in the mid-1990s. Also, realist theory only partially explains the intensity of the bilateral friction and alienation during this period because a major shift in the Sino-Japanese balance of power was lacking, and none of their political and economic disputes involved vital national interests.
Historical memory provides a strong explanation for the temporary harmony in the early 1990s as well as for the escalation of bilateral tension four to five years later. From the 1990s, Japan's conservative ruling elites perpetuated old national myths not only to justify an assertive diplomatic agenda but also to use the memory tool to mobilize public support for their electoral strategy and domestic reform programs. In the meantime, the goals of enhancing internal cohesion and boosting regime legitimacy motivated the Chinese government to employ a twofold strategy of launching a patriotic history education campaign at home and attacking Japan's attitude toward history in the diplomatic arena.