Why have some former enemy countries established durable peace while others remain mired in animosity? When and how does historical memory matter in post-conflict interstate relations? Focusing on two case studies, Yinan He argues that the key to interstate reconciliation is the harmonization of national memories. Conversely, memory divergence resulting from national mythmaking harms long-term prospects for reconciliation. After WWII, Sino-Japanese and West German-Polish relations were both antagonized by the Cold War structure, and pernicious myths prevailed in national collective memory. In the 1970s, China and Japan brushed aside historical legacy for immediate diplomatic normalization. But the progress of reconciliation was soon impeded from the 1980s by elite mythmaking practices that stressed historical animosities. In contrast, from the 1970s West Germany and Poland began to de-mythify war history and narrowed their memory gap through restitution measures and textbook cooperation, paving the way for significant progress toward reconciliation after the Cold War.
Introduction; 1. Explaining deep interstate reconciliation; 2. When east meets west: postwar West German-Polish reconciliation; 3. Initial isolation: pre-normalization Sino-Japanese reconciliation; 4. The 'honeymoon' period: Sino-Japanese relations, 1972–81; 5. An old feud comes back: Sino-Japanese relations in the 1980s; 6. Volatility and downward spiral: Sino-Japanese relations from the 1990s to the present; Conclusion; Appendix; Bibliography.
“Yinan He is a uniquely talented scholar of Chinese foreign policy. Her work explores forces that could make for peace or war, as with German-Polish reconciliation, and then applies those key lessons to the potentially explosive tensions in China-Japan rivalry. Rather than seeing China as unique, Professor He approaches Beijing's continuing unwillingness to truly reconcile with Tokyo from a perspective of general IR theory. The result is a pioneering work which blazes new and better paths in the study of Chinese foreign policy. Professor He has produced an excellent, informed and hard-headed volume which makes important contributions both to IR theory and also to prospects for peace in a region which contains dangerous embers that could yet burst into fires of war.”
-Edward Friedman, University of Wisconsin, Madison
“Legacies of war have long contributed to a climate of insecurity in East Asia. And with the end of the Cold War and China’s rise, memories of war have resurfaced, and Sino-Japanese relations have plunged to new depths of mutual mistrust. Yet international relations scholars have largely dismissed history as irrelevant to the study of geopolitics. Yinan He’s new book fills this gap, combining a balanced historical account of national mythmaking in China and Japan with a rigorous engagement with mainstream realist international relations theory. The Search for Reconciliation is both thoughtful and timely. It is must reading for anyone interested in Sino-Japanese relations, arguably one of the most volatile bilateral relationships of the 21st century.”
-Peter Hays Gries, Newman Chair in U.S.-China Issues, The University of Oklahoma
“This book changes the way we talk about inter-state reconciliation politics. Instead of postulating West Germany as the model apologizer, Yinan He analyzes Sino-Japanese relations both historically and comparatively to offer a theory of measuring ‘the history factor’ in international relations more generally. Important for political scientists and historians alike, He’s consistently evenhanded, transparent, and dispassionate treatment of both sides—China and Japan—via a common set of clearly defined analytical tools is truly impressive. In fact, I know of no other work that manages to do this so convincingly given the enormously charged debates on this topic not only in Asia but also in American identity politics.”
-Franziska Seraphim, Boston College