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Campus Now

Autumn Issue (Nov.)

A WASEDA Miscellany

Jie Liu

To Know About Asia and to Know About the World

Jie Liu
Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences

In the spring of 1982, I came from Beijing, China to Japan as a foreign student. At the time, it China had juststarted its reform and opening up policies, so there were only a few hundred students a year going abroad tostudy. For someone like me, who had experienced the Cultural Revolution as an elementary school student,being able to step on the soil of a foreign country was like dream. As it was at a time when China wasn'tgetting on with other countries, it was a fairly daunting idea for my parents to send their child to an unknowncountry. In spite of their worries though, I came to Japan anyway, being so curious about this country.

As foreign students were small in number and Japan had good relations with China at that time, Japanesestrangers would often come up to me and ask me if I needed any help. Also, I was very lucky becausesoon after I got into college, I managed to make friends who I could talk to about anything. Every weekend,one of my friends came to my small apartment, bringing sushi that his mother had made for us. We drankbeer and always had a good time talking.

The two years studying at the college of arts and science at the University of Tokyo (Komaba) passed in notime. There, besides English, I studied German for two years for my language class. But now, I remembernothing except that the title of the textbook was Lieb. On moving on to the 3rd year, I had to decide mymajor. In the beginning, I planned to go to the laboratory of Oriental (Asian) History, but since I was socurious about the history of Japan, I decided to go to the laboratory of National (Japanese) History. Sincethen, I've often been asked why I changed my direction of study. The answer is I just wanted to know moreabout Japan.

With the guidance of my advisor and the senior students in my laboratory, I started and still continue to readhandwritten historical documents in Japanese. It was difficult, but a great experience for me. Reading theletters and diaries of people from the Meji Era, and learning the special rhythmic sense in the writing, enabledme to understand the beauty of the Japanese language and the Japanese culture.

I chose Japanese diplomacy in the 1930s as the topic of my dissertation, and spent three years on it.Needless to say, this experience helped me build up the foundation of my academic career. Even now, Icontinue to research Japanese diplomacy before the end of Second World War.

After the Meiji Restoration, Japan fervently introduced ideas from foreign country's laws, such as those fromEurope, so as to make its own diplomatic policies and started to make connections with other countries.By contrast, at that time, China was focusing on fighting against the invasions of foreign countries andsolving its own domestic problems, and so it could not really develop its diplomatic relations with othercountries. Another reason why Japan and China took different diplomatic paths is because Japan knewmuch more than China about international law made by Western countries. That is, China's knowledge ofthe international law was far from adequate. Besides, China would not abandon its China-centric worldview. That was another key point why China was so late in responding to the new era. To sum up, law anddiplomacy were the two big issues in the history of relations between Japan and China. These are also thetwo issues that I continue to be interested in.

Most of the symposiums that I have attended in the past few years have been related to how to bringcountries in East Asia together to have a common perception of history. In the past two decades, Japanhas repeatedly stood in opposition to China and Korea, with it's different interpretation of history. As aresult, the relations between Japan and China have deteriorated greatly on the level of politics and howcitizens of the two countries feel about each other. The perception of history plays an important role in therecent conflicts over the Senkaku Islets, too. In order to stabilize relations between Japan and China and tobring peace to the East Asian region, I call on Japan, China, and Korea to make greater efforts than beforein conducting conversations on history through various channels.

Joining the training program at the Hong Kong University

As for the message that I want to pass on to the students the most, it is "to know about Asia and to knowabout the world." There are many Chinese and Asian students who come to Japan; on the contrary, it isseldom the case that Japanese go overseas to other Asian countries to study.

From what I have heard, many students do not like China, which has been pushing ahead with greaterand greater confidence in the global community thanks to its economicgrowth. But doesn't that give us all the more reason to know more aboutChina? What are China's future plans? How will the world change with therise of China? I want students to find out the answers to these types ofquestions by themselves, out of curiosity, and not being influenced by themass media. As far as I am concerned, if the Japanese do not know theirgiant neighboring country well enough, there is no future for Japan. To knowAsia means to plan for your own future. As Waseda University is one of theleading universities in Asia which sends out messages to the world, I expectyou, the students of Waseda, to keep your eyes open for Asia.