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The Search for Reconciliation
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  • Yinan He, Seton Hall University, New Jersey
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Book description

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.


'Yinan He is a uniquely talented scholar of Chinese foreign policy. Her work explores forces that could make for peace or war, as with German-Polish reconciliation, and then applies those key lessons to the potentially explosive tensions in China-Japan rivalry. Rather than seeing China as unique, Professor He approaches Beijing's continuing unwillingness to truly reconcile with Tokyo from a perspective of general IR theory. The result is a pioneering work which blazes new and better paths in the study of Chinese foreign policy. Professor He has produced an excellent, informed and hard-headed volume which makes important contributions both to IR theory and also to prospects for peace in a region which contains dangerous embers that could yet burst into fires of war.'

Edward Friedman - University of Wisconsin, Madison

'The great strength of He’s work lies in combining [an] innovative theoretical argument with careful empirical inquiry. Her attention to questions of case selection and design, clarity of definitions, high standards for evidence collection, and honesty in reporting her findings bolster the credibility of her claims.'

J. Reilly Source: Journal of Chinese Political Science

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