Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Causes of World War One Repeated in Asia Today?

asia today
Greetings from the Great Hall of the Australian National University in Canberra, where a panel of experts is speaking on "Asia today – 1914 redux?" (podcast availableProfessor Joan Beaumont, argued that conditions had changed since 1914, but states and non-state actors can still rally their people to war. Professor Hugh White argued that war is never inevitable. He compared the decline of Britain and rise of German industry in 1914 and the recent economic prosperity of China and relative decline of the USA. By 1914 the great powers of Europe had ceased to respect the concept of "great powers", but expected it to still work. Professor White argued that the assumed uncontested primacy of the USA has already broken down, with China and Japan not assuming it. He argued this was dangerous as it is assumed that the USA is still able and willing to intervene. Professor White contrasted the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996, when the USA sent the 7th fleet to Taiwan to ward off China and the Senkaku Islands today, where the USA does not (it happens I was on the 7th Fleet Flagship in 1997).

Professor Evelyn Goh,  described Asia as a region of unfinished business, with the last communist countries, unfinished wars and decolonisation. She compared China's strategy to that of 19th Century Austria and Germany, looking for partnerships in response to its being surrounded by potential enemies. But Professor Goh said we were not at the point of WWI, arguing that China has been relatively restrained in its use of force. She expressed concern that the USA was unwilling to cede power while also unwilling to use it.

As one of the panellists noted, there is a slow motion arms race in the region. I suggest this need not be destabilising. Japan has invested in very credible Soryu-class submarines, Kongo class guided missile destroyers (equipped for ballistic missile defence), Izumo-class helicopter carriers (named "destroyers" in Japan for political reasons) and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft (the F-35B could operate from the carriers, if politics allowed). Other countries, including Australia, have made similar purchases of ships, submarines and aircraft. These will make it more difficult for even a great power to act aggressively. Middle powers can look to alliances for defence, but also ensure they have their own credible military forces.


Great Hall, University House (1), Balmain Crescent, ANU


Tuesday, 18 March, 2014 - 17:30 to 19:00
It is almost 100 years since the first shots of the First World War rang out. How the great European powers seemingly stumbled into a disastrous war through a maelstrom of ambition, revenge, fear, misjudgements and alliance obligations has been a matter of keen debate ever since. While the events of July and August 1914 have appeared puzzling, they have echoed through the following century as a cautionary tale of how things can go wrong, and do so with alarming rapidity.
Many scholars and policy makers worry that today East Asia risks a similar tragedy. The region sees growing and possibly waning great powers, the introduction of new technologies of warfare, strident nationalism, tense diplomatic relationships and a complex economic interdependence. So does Europe in 1914 portend a possible future for Asia a hundred years later? Or should we be wary of a so simple, if not simplistic, comparison? This special event brings together some leading scholars of Australia and Asia to explore both what set off the guns in 1914, and how they can be forestalled in 2014.

The panel will be made up of Professors Joan Beaumont, Evelyn Goh, Michael Wesley and Hugh White. It will be chaired by the Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Associate Professor Brendan Taylor.
Joan Beaumont is a Professor in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Australian National University.  She is a historian of Australia in the two world wars, Australian defence and foreign policy, prisoners of war and the memory and heritage of war. She has recently published the critically acclaimed Broken nation: Australians and the Great War, described as “a highly ambitious and consummate enterprise of a kind that few have attempted, let alone accomplished”. Other publications include Ministers, mandarins and diplomats: the making of Australian foreign policy, 1941-69 (ed.); Australia's war, 1939-45 (ed.); Australia's war, 1914-18 (ed.)and Gull Force: survival and leadership in captivity, 1941–1945 (1988). She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.
Evelyn Goh is the Shedden Professor of Strategic Policy Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Australian National University. Her research interests are East Asian security, diplomatic history and international relations theory. She has published widely on US-China relations and diplomatic history; strategy, security and institutions in East Asia; great power relations; and environmental security. Her latest book, The struggle for order: hegemony, hierarchy and transition in post-Cold War East Asia, provides a new interpretation of the hierarchical regional order and analyses the central roles of the United States, China and Japan in determining regional security. She is currently completing a collaborative project analysing China’s influence in developing parts of Asia, and conducting research on the great power bargain between China and Japan. She has held previous faculty positions at Royal Holloway University of London, the University of Oxford, and the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore; and visiting positions at the Woodrow Wilson Center and East-West Center in Washington DC. She has been a East Asia Institute Fellow, and a UK Economic and Social Research Council Mid-Career Fellow.
Michael Wesley is Professor of National Security and Director of the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University. His career has spanned academia, with previous appointments at the University of New South Wales, Griffith University, the University of Hong Kong, Sun Yat-sen University and the University of Sydney; government, where he worked as Assistant Director General for Transnational Issues at the Office of National Assessments; and think tanks, in which he was Executive Director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Professor Wesley has also served as the Editor-in-chief of the Australian journal of international affairs and as a board member of the Australia Television Network. He is a non-executive member of the Senior Leadership Group of the Australian Federal Police and a director of the Kokoda Foundation. His most recent book, There goes the neighbourhood: Australia and the rise of Asia, won the 2011 John Button Prize for the best writing on Australian public policy.
Hugh White is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Australian National University.  He has worked on Australian strategic, defence and foreign policy issues since 1980 in several different roles including intelligence analyst, journalist, ministerial adviser, departmental official, think tanker and academic. He was the principal author of Australia’s 2000Defence White Paper. His recent publications include Power shift: Australia’s future between Washington and Beijing published as a Quarterly Essay in September 2010, and The China choice: why America should share power, published in Australia and subsequently in the US, China and Japan.
Image: Modern Japanese destroyer in the East China Sea

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