Study Group on the Rise of Popular Government and Nationalism in Northeast Asia

Over the last two decades, democratization and liberal economic reform have swept Northeast Asia. The impact on regional foreign policies and international relations, however, may not be entirely what American policymakers hoped for as they pressed for these changes. In Taiwan and South Korea, democracy has opened new opportunities for American diplomacy, but it has also introduced new and sometimes dangerous variables. Taiwan’s “identity politics” have complicated U.S. relations with China. And the rise of a new generation in South Korea, with very different views of North Korea and represented by a more assertive government, has limited Washington’s room for maneuver in dealing with Pyongyang. China has not “democratized,” but the government finds it increasingly difficult to control and contain popular nationalist sentiments. And although political reform in Japan has enabled a closer alliance with the United States, there too, popular politics is facilitating the reemergence of nationalist forces. Dealing effectively with the new governments of East Asia will require a new understanding of the opportunities and challenges posed by the political and economic transformations underway there.

This project will result in a book that will assess the region’s new political, economic, and social geography and the implications for the American policy.