The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Research > Waseda research zone - latest news on project research


Waseda Research Zone - Latest News on Project Research -

Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration (Selected as 2007 Global COE Program)

The power of a young generation that exceeds national borders will create an East Asian Community.

Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration Professor Satoshi Amako, Program leader

Since the 1990s, the need for the formation of an East Asian Community has rapidly become the subject of debate among the governments of various countries. The rapid expansion of the East Asian economic region lies behind these debates. When examining the group composed of ASEAN countries and the 3 countries of Japan, China, and Korea, it can be seen that rates for both direct regional investment and regional trade have reached close to 60%. This number is second only to the EU, and is higher than NAFTA (fair trade agreement between America, Canada, and Mexico).

Despite this rapid advance of a substantive economic integration in East Asian, no FTA (Fair Trade Agreement) has been enacted, and no system using customs alliances to protect the East Asian economic region from other countries has been established. Although the need for systematic regional integration is being loudly called for, a situation continues in which no system exists, except for agreements made between two individual countries.

Institute Logo
The project is commonly referred to as "GIARI", a name derived by taking the first letter of each word from the English title "Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration"

During the past 10 years, various concepts have been raised for an East Asian Community. There has been some progress, such as the ASEAN proclamation for the "establishment in 2015 of an ASEAN Community in the areas of security, economics, and culture". However, Japan, China, and Korea, countries which should be taking the lead in this important regional integration, have been unable to come together to achieve this goal. In December of 2005, the first East Asian Summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, and the issue of an East Asian Community was raised with a newfound reality. However, what became apparent was the discord between China and Japan, both of which are seeking to take the initiative in the establishment of this community.

1st International Symposium "Asia Agreement/Integration & Development of Professionals" (January,2008)

Although historical and political friction exists between countries, a serious problem creating the greatest barrier to the realization of an East Asian Community is the overwhelming shortage of professionals who possess the high-level specialized skills needed to achieve integration of Asia. The Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration, a new education and research project of Waseda University, was established with a strong awareness that the most vital issue is the development of such professionals. This project has been selected as a Global COE(*) Program by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. We discussed the new project, which started in the 2007 academic year, with Satoshi Amako, leader of the program and Professor at the Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies.

(*) Note: Global COE is a program of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology that offers prioritized support for the formation of international outstanding education research centers. "COE" stands for Center of Excellence.

Practical Involvement in the Creation of Asia

"Until now, during activities such as the performance of joint research and holding of symposiums, we researchers have raised a variety of ideas regarding an East Asian Community. Constitutions, human rights, environmental problems.scholars are adept at debating and refining these kinds of individual ideas. However, there has been no progress in the creation of an actual East Asian Community. No matter how many outstanding ideas are put forth, the situation will not improve unless we confront the problem of who will do what in order to realize these ideas. In particular, up until now, there has been a decisive lack of debate regarding the development of professionals." (Professor Amako)

Prior to this project, the "Contemporary Asian Studies"(*) project was advanced at Waseda University from the 2002 to the 2006 academic year. This project was an effort to explore Asian Studies from a perspective different than Western learning. As a result, the 5 year project converged upon the key phrase "Designing an East Asian Community". The comprehensive survey of research activities was also given the same title, "Designing an East Asian Community", and was collected into a book consisting of 4 volumes.

(*) Contemporary Asian Studies was selected as a 21st Century COE program by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The 21st Century COE program was a precursor to the Global COE program.

"Compared to Europe, it is difficult to find shared culture and shared religion in Asia. Also, democratization and modernization are not moving at the same pace. When the essence of Asia is pursued, one sees overwhelming diversity and heterogeneity rather than universality." (Professor Amako)

The objective is development of leading professionals who will contribution to Asian regional integration

On the other hand, amongst rapid infiltration of an economic global rhythm that acts as a shared item to irresistibly penetrate that heterogeneity, "a great deficiency of Asia is that there is no regional framework" (Professor Amako). Modern Asian Studies cannot be created without directly confronting this problem. Truly, there is only the reverse conception that Asian Studies are created from within the "creation of Asia" which is currently being advanced.

Under this understanding, 2 new concepts have been raised: "Asian regional integration" and "development of global professionals". Furthermore, within a program which closely intertwines these 2 concepts, a bold vision has been established for the ultimate objective. This objective is the development of leaders who will be active in the formation and implementation of political policies.

Overcoming the History of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere

The project is lead by Professor Amako, the program leader, as well as a group of 16 professors who have gathered from various fields. Fields targeted by the project are composed of the 3 main fields of "Politics/Security", "Economics", and "Society/Culture", as well as "Cross-Disciplinary" fields which are overlapping areas of the 3 main fields. Additionally, there is the inclusion of "Multi-Disciplinary" fields, which focus on problems relating all issues such as the environment, preparedness for infectious diseases, and human rights governance (Figure 1). Through participation in research activities in all of these fields, the project seeks to develop business-oriented, highly qualified professionals and young researcher professionals who can become leaders in regional integration.

"The keyword which unites all of these fields is "governance". In particular, problems addressed in the multi-disciplinary fields, such as the environment, infectious diseases, and human rights, are problems of human security relating to the security of a country. Although these problems have not yet been established as scholastic fields, they are extremely important fields when considering regional integration." (Professor Amako)

The long history of Asian research at Waseda University has enabled the formation of this kind of interdisciplinary project. In addition to the Contemporary Asian Studies project which was mentioned earlier, a large number of project research institutes and centers have been established which relate to Asian studies. Also, the Organization for Asian Studies exists in order to provide comprehensive support and advancement for all of these activities, and to form an international education and research network.

Also, the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, which is the base for this project, was the first independent graduate school of Waseda University and has developed unique graduate school education under the banner of Asia. The graduate school bears no comparison in regards to its prestige throughout Asia and its high status as a place for foreign study.

While taking pride in this outstanding record, Professor Amako states that there is "great joy" in extending to the current expansion of a project the espouses "Asian regional integration".

"When the EC was created in the early 1990s, a certain newspaper developed a plan to gather intellectuals of East Asian countries who were residing in Japan and hold a discussion under the theme of "is an Asian community possible?". At that time, I raised the issue that serious consideration must be given to the future formation of an Asian community. However, after the discussion was over, participants from other countries immediately criticized Japan as having no right to speak about an Asian community. Many of the participants raised the issue of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. I that time, I strongly felt that Japan was not yet in a position to discuss an Asian community."

However, in the 10 years of rapid change which have passed since that incident, the adverse reaction to the word "community" has rapidly softened. "I feel that a great change has occurred in a very short period of time. Another major change has been the emergence of the younger generation. This younger generation is not familiar with the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, but they know about Japan's television programs and entertainers. This generation has rapidly risen to the mainstream."

Figure 1 Conceptual Diagram of Project

Co-Organization of a Summer Seminar by 3 Universities of Japan, China, and Korea

One of the hints for this project, the shaping of the young generation into professionals who will lead the creation of an Asian Community, is the long commitment in Europe to a plan for the development of international professionals.

Young researchers from countries throughout the world gather at the "Waseda University Summer Institute"

"In Europe, the development of international professionals is begins at a very early stage, with programs such as exchange of professionals between regional universities. This was an extremely vital program in the undercurrent of achieving the EU integration of today, and I believe that EU integration would not have been possible without such a program. Upon realizing this, we arrived at the conclusion that a framework for the development of professionals who transcend national boundaries is a necessity for Asian integration as well. (Professor Amako)

As a specific action, "Summer School"(*) was held in 2007 and 2008 through co-organization of the Waseda University Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies, the Seoul International University Graduate School of International Relations, and the Peking University Graduate School of Economics. A total of 30 students, 10 from each university, spent 1 week at each university for a total of 3 weeks of participation in a camp-type seminar. Also, the "Waseda University Summer Institute" was newly held in 2008. Participants were recruited from Asia and from countries throughout the world, with a focus on doctoral program students, and 23 students participated in a week long intensive seminar.

"Summer School" co-organized by 3 universities of Japan, China, and Korea

In the future, we intend to actively accept request for education of professionals from government organizations and international organizations of Asia. There has already been specific discussion with the ASEAN Secretariat.

(*) Implemented as part of the "Initiatives for Attractive Education in Graduate School" project of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. In 2008, the Shanghai University of Finance & Economics participated together with Peking University.

Persistent effort will be required over a long period of time in order to achieve the ideal raised by this project, which is "Asian region integration". However, like the 10 year period of the 1990s, which achieved surprising changes, it is no dream to believe that the next 10 years will bring a major change in the form of Asia due to the performance of professionals who have emerged from this project.

Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration

Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration receives support from the Global COE Program of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration

Organization for Asian Studies, Waseda University

Waseda University Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies