Power and Identity in Asia

The Power and Identity project addresses whether international relations in Asia are likely to be characterized by cooperation and regional integration or by security tensions and interstate war in the foreseeable future.

The project’s secondary goal  is to assess the dominant security orientations of the powers studied (China, India, Japan, Korea, ASEAN) regarding cooperation with the United States and US leadership in Asia. We study how those outcomes are affected by variation in national identities: what values key actors in those states hold and how they prioritize them, how they perceive their role in the region, and what international perspectives they hold.

The project is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Asia Security Initiative. The Asia Security Initiative was launched in May of 2009; its grantmaking currently focuses on three particularly critical security issues: strengthening regional cooperation, preventing conflict in Northeast Asia, and building international cooperation to respond to internal challenges.

The project will make an important contribution to the international relations literature. Scholars increasingly study identity issues, but defining and operationalizing identity have remained problematic issues. A related problem has been a lack of cross-national comparison and testing in the literature on the relationship between power and identity. Our project examines several countries across the same dimensions of identity which allows for cross-national comparison.

The project also provides key insights for policymakers. Identity issues matter for international security outcomes, and thus are important from a policy perspective for regional actors and the U.S. alike. Moreover, perceptions of history and past conflicts greatly shape national identity and images of other countries. A better understanding of how identity issues affect the international polices of China, India, Japan, Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is essential for promoting regional peace and cooperation. We will make information about the relationship between identity and power in Asia available to policymakers, journalists and analysts through several mechanisms, including holding regional colloqia in Beijing and New Delhi, an international workshop in Washington DC, and through the production of policy briefs and commentaries.