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 -

Delving into the Essence of Modern China
Transmitting a Wide Range of Research Results to the World

Comprehensive Research Organization: Waseda Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies

Professor Satoshi Amako of the Faculty of International Research and Education, who is the director of the Waseda Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies

The rate of economic growth in China following their economic reform is extraordinary. Even as growth is gradually slowing down, the force of China's economic strength is expanding from Asia to reaching global prominence. From a political perspective, even as economic liberalization continues to unfold, the power of single-party rule by the Communist Party has not weakened in the slightest. In fact, under President Xi Jinping and the vision of a "stronger China," the party's power has further solidified.

How should we interpret the China we see today, and what kind of relationship should we be building? For Japan, the relationship with China has historically been of great importance in matters regarding politics, economics, diplomacy, culture and more. We can expect this to be the case going forward. Through Chinese studies conducted in Japan before World War II, much experimental research was accumulated based on field work such as field investigations and literary studies. As the times changed drastically after World War II, the center of interest regarding academic pursuits as well as political and economic issues shifted towards the West. In addition, regarding policies surrounding academic research, most of the funding went to research that was results and goal-oriented, leaving little support for steady research into the humanities and social sciences. However, the importance of research on China is only becoming greater amid the growing complexity in international relations, as well as the uneasy state of affairs in East Asia.

Waseda University is one of the most important centers of Chinese studies in Japan. The university has accepted a large number of Chinese international students even during these times when relations with China are strained, many of whom have gone on to hold important positions in academia and politics in China. They have also become key catalysts in encouraging exchanges and developing relationships between Waseda University and China. With the long history between the two countries and the intellectual property Japan has accumulated through Chinese studies at their disposal, the academic value of observing and analyzing China from Japan has contributed greatly to educating Chinese international students to become researchers of Chinese studies.

Against this backdrop, with the research funding provided by the Inter-University Research Institute Corporation National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU), the Waseda Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies was established at Waseda University as the hub research center of the major national research project called Contemporary Chinese Area Studies (based in the Organization for Asian Studies). This research institute serves as the hub research center for five other participants in this project: Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University; Keio Institute of East Asian Studies; Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo; Research Institute for Humanity and Nature; and Toyo Bunko (a total of nine participants from the second term, with the addition of Kobe University, Hosei University, and Aichi University). It had run the program for 10 years, starting from the first term (from 2007 to 2011) and continuing to the second term (2012 to 2016). After the project ended in March 2017, it was decided that it would start anew with Waseda University as the base for advancing contemporary Chinese studies. To learn more about its research vision and activities, we talked to Professor Satoshi Amako of the Faculty of International Research and Education, who is the director of the Waseda Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies, as well as the head of the NIHU's second-term project.

The Three Pillars: Research, Human Resources and Overseas Dissemination

"The activity policy of the Waseda Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies is founded on the following three pillars: research, human resource development, and overseas dissemination. All of these have produced definitive results in the past 10 years. Especially with regard to the third pillar, overseas dissemination, the English language journal published in the second term titled The Journal of Contemporary Chinese Studies (semiannual publication by Waseda University Press) and the Chinese language annual report Japanese Studies of Contemporary China (annual publication by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) have transmitted the results of research into China conducted in Japan. The English language journal has especially been well received, and in April 2017, it was published by Routledge, a major academic publishing company, under the new name Journal of Contemporary East Asian Studies. All issues starting from the first issue published in 2012 have been made available to the world through the company's open access website (Picture 1)." (Director Amako)

Picture 1: The open access website operated by Routledge where the Journal of Contemporary East Asian Studiess is made available

It is worth noting that Waseda University is the first university in Japan to enter into a publishing contract with Routledge (news release article). Noticing this achievement, NIHU decided to provide funding for research dissemination even after the program ended. The publication's budget is now covered by outside funding. Even though it is published from a university, due to the peer review system that applies to journals published by scientific societies, the publication invites many contributors from around the world. Routledge's website is viewed by researchers around the world who are experts in a wide range of fields, and the readership of the publication is rapidly expanding.

"Within a few months after the launch, the readership expanded immediately. The levels of Chinese studies and Asian regional studies is very advanced in Japan, so making the magazine available in English to an international audience was one of our biggest goals. After devoting substantial efforts in our publication since 2012, that goal was finally been achieved in a major way. Today, Chinese studies is developing on a global scale, largely driven by Chinese researchers who are scattered among the world's top universities. We aim to further advance our capabilities as a research exchange center for researchers around the world." (Director Amako)

With regards to the second pillar, human resource development, many young researchers are being educated to become global professionals. NIHU's second-term program selects notable academic papers written by young researchers, and publishes them as a series titled Contemporary Chinese Area Studies. 18 volumes have been published in five years (Picture 2). These researchers have already taken positions as experts in universities and research institutions. The human resource foundation for passing down the accomplishments of this program to the next generation of researchers is steadily taking form.

Picture 2: A few volumes of the journal Contemporary Chinese Area Studies with papers written by various young researchers (all 18 volumes published by Keiso Shobo)

Facing the Superpower China Head-on

The reason why the two pillars of overseas dissemination and human resource development have been so successful is because of the accomplished results of the first pillar, research. During NIHU's first-term program, with Waseda University as the center of research, the topic of China's development and sustainability was approached from various angles, including political, economic, social and historical perspectives. In the second term, the objective has been to pursue research regarding the superpower status of China head-on, by comprehensively driving Chinese studies forward from the four focal points of China's status as a superpower in the context of 1) international relations, 2) economic globalization, 3) a maturing society and 4) its history as an empire. The results have been compiled in a five-volume series (out of which one volume is yet to be published) titled Where is China going? The Future of a Superpower, and is being published by the University of Tokyo Press (Picture 3).

Picture 3: The culmination of NIHU's second-term program, the Where is China going? The Future of a Superpower series (University of Tokyo Press) that comprises the following five volumes: Volume 1 "Cultural Perspective and Historical Awareness" (unpublished), Volume 2 "China and the Future of International Order," Volume 3 "Drifting Governance under the 'New Normal'," Volume 4 "The Frictions and Impact of Becoming an Economic Superpower," and Volume 5 "Empowered Citizens on the Rise." Each volume is authored by two experts.

"In 2015, President Xi Jinping declared that China has reached the end of an era of astounding economic development, and is now entering an age of slow and steady growth. He explained that this growth is not temporary, but one that will be a perpetual reality, and described it as the "new normal." Against this backdrop, China is facing a flood of social problems such as income disparity, corruption, environmental issues and an aging population. Amid these concerns, the government, which has suppressed freedom of speech through force, is growing increasingly concerned. The first and foremost national strategy is to bring these issues under control, and build a harmonious nation.

The second national strategy is the One Belt One Road Initiative, a massive project to expand China's sphere of influence by building a new Silk Road of land and sea that extends west, in addition to establishing an international financial institution, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The third strategy is China establishing itself as a military superpower.

In our second term, we have been focusing our research on China's status as a superpower and its efforts to pursue these three major strategies, but starting in 2017, we have been narrowing our focus on the first strategy, China's "new normal." We aim to further our research by delving deeper into the subject with the common theme of 'comprehensive analysis of China's "new normal" in the post-rapid economic growth period'." (Director Amako)

Aiming Toward More Advanced Regional Studies

Against the backdrop of an increasing chaotic situation in China as it enters the "new normal," Xi Jinping's second term as President started in 2017 (related article). What direction will this new China head toward as it aims to become a stronger nation? How will it confront the many contradictions it faces, and how will it build a stable nation?

"China is undergoing drastic changes, but it is crucial to not be bewildered by the changes and phenomena we see on the surface, and study them while focusing on the unchanging vital elements and patterns of China. It is important to establish an interdisciplinary point of view for studying China from a broader perspective and for understanding it in a deeper way. This is also a part of our objective for developing our methodology for regional studies." (Director Amako)

The program aims to develop qualitative research by fusing the expertise of researchers in a wide range of fields, including politics, economics, diplomacy, society and international relations, with their unique approach to regional studies. As the project reaches its 11th year, more and more results can be expected of the Waseda Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies as they become increasingly ambitious in advancing their research and transmitting their results around the world.

Professor Amako, when he appeared on a live Japanese–Chinese panel discussion on Hong Kong's Phoenix Satellite Television in 2013 after the Senkaku boat collision incident (left of the moderator)

Standing with the presenter at the international symposium "New Horizon in China Studies: Exchange of Academic Experience" held in Korea in January 2017 (center).

Related Links

Waseda Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies
Comprehensive Research Organization
Inter-University Research Institute Corporation National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU)