Peace and Security in Northeast Asia

Understanding China: Myths and Realities

November 16 - 19, 2023

Tokyo, Japan


Understanding China: Myths and Realities

International Study Group on Northeast Asia Peace and Security

Tokyo, Japan │16-18 November 2023


We appear to be at an inflection point in history. The international liberal order is in decline and international power constellations are shifting. The world faces new security threats, from climate change, biodiversity loss, pandemics and food security. Countries can only address these challenges through global cooperation, but global divisions and rivalries are only worsening. In this context, the rise of China has enormous implications for global governance and regional stability. China has put forward new norms for international order, through the Global Security Initiative, the Global Development Initiative and the Global Intercivilizational Initiative. China is recovering its historic place in Asia and the world, but instead of renegotiating the global order to embrace a leading Chinese role in global governance, China’s rise is resisted, and efforts are made to contain China both in Asia and in the world.

Northeast Asia seems to be at risk of becoming zones of contention. Instead of developing new cooperative approaches to promoting human security and addressing traditional security challenges, realpolitik and military solutions are on the rise. The aim of the International Study Group was to better understand the Chinese perspective and share new perspectives with neighbours in the Northeast Asia region.

The International Study Group workshop focused on the following sets of questions:

(1) What have been the main developments in Northeast Asia and its global context since 1989; what explains the recent deterioration in relations, from 2017 up to the G7 in 2023; what are the major threats to peace in the region?

(2) How can China’s perspectives on national and global security, development and intercivilizational dialogue contribute to sustaining the East Asian peace, and how do they complement or contradict the perspectives of neighbouring states?

(3) What norms, principles, understandings and institutions can promote cooperative security and collaborative relationships in Northeast Asia? Are the countries of the region willing to deal with painful history to create a peaceful present?

(4) Is it time to rethink the development of Northeast Asian regional security architecture to build confidence, security cooperation and conflict resolution mechanisms for the nonviolent management of regional disputes?  How can trust in the region be built and how can East and Southeast Asian countries prevent maritime clashes, territorial disputes, and nuclear risk?

(5) What scope is there for cooperation on superordinate challenges (such as climate change, pandemics etc) and what institutional mechanisms might facilitate constructive engagement? What role can common needs, aspirations and values play in building regional collaboration?

(6) What are the most important next steps to meet common goals of building stable peace in the region? How do all sides view the implications of current US-China relations, AUKUS, the QUAD and what appears to the Chinese as regional and global containment policies? How can conflict prevention capacity in the region be improved?

The workshop was designed for the Northeast Asia experts to listen appreciatively to what the Chinese participants had to say on China’s security concerns and how current Chinese foreign policy and defence positions are meant to alleviate them.  These presentations were then followed by interactive dialogue with Chinese colleagues about how these different policies are viewed by Korea, Japan and the United States.

Link to the Summary Report from this meeting.