Overcoming shadows of the past : post-conflict interstate reconciliation in East Asia and Europe
Author(s)He, Yinan, 1970-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Stephen Van Evera.
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This dissertation explores the origins of interstate reconciliation after traumatic conflicts, mainly through the comparative study of postwar Sino-Japanese and (West) German-Polish relations. While Germany and Poland have basically achieved deep reconciliation, the Sino-Japanese relationship is still dominated by mistrust and simmering animosity. I test and compare two competing theories to explain the different reconciliation outcomes. Realist theory argues that common security interests solely drive post-conflict reconciliation. I develop the second theory, historical mythmaking theory, which suggests that elite mythmaking of the conflict history for instrumental purposes will obstruct long-term reconciliation. Because national myths glorify and whitewash the action of their own nations and belittle others, they can cause the memories of former adversary states to clash. Such mutually divergent narratives will provoke negative emotions and perception of each other's hostile intention, both mechanisms contributing to bilateral conflict. The case studies show the relative strength of historical mythmaking theory. The Cold War structural pressure initially blocked reconciliation in both dyads. At that time Chinese and Japanese war memories actually converged on a common myth that blames only a small handful of Japanese militarists for the war. It is because China tried to win the hearts and minds of the Japanese people in order to obtain Japanese official recognition of the Communist regime. Since the Sino-U.S. rapprochement and East-West detente in the 1970s, however, structural conditions turned favorable to reconciliation. But China and Japan only brushed aside historical legacy to make way for diplomatic normalization. A(cont.) honeymoon quickly disintegrated in the early 1980s when the changing domestic context prompted elites to create new national myths and escalate bilateral historiographic disputes. Since then, the history problem has aggravated mutual threat perception and popular hostility, seriously straining bilateral relations. In contrast, from the early 1970s West Germany and Poland narrowed their memory divergence through restitution measures and textbook cooperation. These efforts created a strong sense of closeness and trust, paving the way for the eventual reconciliation in the 1990s.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2004.Includes bibliographical references (p. 430-468).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology