Book Review. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa (ed.), The Cold War in East Asia 1945-1991. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2011, viii + 340 pp., h/b

Jaanika Erne |

Cold War International History Project

I did write a good – to my mind – book review more than a year ago but no-one has been interested in publishing this review, although the review was written under an agreement. Deep in my heart I still hope that one day this review will be published, therefore I am giving only a shortened idea of it here.
What is this book about? – The book is about the developments in East Asia during the Cold War and these developments influence also today’s world politics. The book discusses the periods of 1945-1956 (the beginning of the Cold War), 1956-1973 (multipolarisation), and 1973-1991 (détente, the New Cold War, Gorbachev’s Perestroika), and claims to be based also on unused archival materials.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has been the Editor of the book that embraces chapters written by historians – Hasegawa himself, Odd Anne Westad, Ilya Gaiduk, Chen Jian, Steven Hugh Lee, Nobuo Shimotomai, Lorenz Lüthi, Kazuhiko Togo, Gregg Brazinsky, Vladislav Zubok, Sergey Radchenko.
The book begins with written by Hasegawa introduction that adds to the research, concerning balancing of the US policies with regard to the SU, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea, and on Southeast Asia, including Vietnam and the relationship between the Vietnam War and the East Asian Cold War. The eleven following chapters analyse the interrelations between the US, SU, China, Japan (the quadrangular powers), Seoul, and Pyongyang, mostly focusing on the SU policies and strategies toward the West and Asia through specific areas such as the Chinese Revolution of 1949, the Korean War, the Sino-Soviet conflict, the US-Japanese relations, the territorial dispute between the SU and Japan, and the relations between the US, Japan and Seoul (the strategic triangle).

In Chapter One, “Struggles for Modernity: The Golden Years of the Sino-Soviet Alliance” Westad describes how the Chinese leaders built up the state during the Sino-Soviet alliance (from 1945 to, in some points, the mid-1960s). In focus is the plan to reject Western imperialism and corrupt Chinese traditions through four key areas – military organisation, education, urban planning, and minority policies, stressing China’s search for modernity. Westad demonstrates how the alliance with China “established Moscow as the centre of global anti-hegemonic system of States” (p.35) and how the Soviet model for modernity that was a political example for the Chinese Communist Party’s understanding of modernity, served dual and often contradictory purposes –”plan” and “leap” that “increasingly clashed with each other in 1950s China” (p.36).

In Chapter Two, “The Second Front of the Soviet Cold War: Asia in the System of Moscow’s Foreign Policy Priorities, 1945-1956” Gaiduk alleges that while at that period the SU stood in the background focusing mainly on Europe, communist China after the Korean War moved under Stalin at the forefront of the Asian communist movement and finally challenged the supremacy of the SU. Gaiduk supports the view of the historians who identify the years 1948-1950 as the starting point of Asia’s transformation of the Cold War.

In Chapter Three, “Reorienting the Cold War: The Implications of China’s Early Cold War Experiences, Taking Korea as a Central Test Case” Jian argues that although the global Cold War has been characterised as confrontation of the US-SU and their allies, in several key aspects China’s position was central – if one thinks of the Chinese Revolution of 1949 as a defining moment for the structure of the global Cold War. Jian demonstrates how Mao’s policy “redefined ideology” (p.92) excluding Realpolitik, how the Korean War changed the management of the SU alliance more difficult, and how China’s “Korean War-centred” early Cold War experience helped the Cold War remain “cold” in the sense of avoiding military confrontation.

In Chapter Four, “Military Occupation and Empire Building in Cold War Asia: The United States and Korea, 1945-1955” Lee approaches a certain period in South Korean history in novel ways – as extended dual American occupation. Lee contrasts the occupation’s first phase in 1945-1948 with its second phase in 1950-1954. Lee also contrasts American occupation with formal colonial rule, and refers to a change in the US policy after the Korean War – he stresses that Korea which in 1947 was peripheral to American strategic thinking became “a frontline state in the containment strategy” (p.116) of the US by 1953; and by 1958 the US had positioned atomic weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

In Chapter Five, “Kim II Sung’s Balancing Act between Moscow and Beijing, 1956-1972” Shimotomai examines how Kim II Sung used the ever-deepening Sino-Soviet split and balanced between the two “Big Brothers” (p.123) “leaning toward one side at the expense of the other depending on the circumstances” (ibid.) motivated by nationalism, aiming at consolidating his own foreign policy and his power expecting to win also the real and potential domestic power struggle. Allegedly such was the case with the confederation with South Korea formed in 1954, 1960, and 1972, the alliance treaty with the USSR in 1961, and the Declaration on the Confederation with the ROK in 1972 never abandoning the goal for unification.

In Chapter Six, “Chinese Foreign Policy, 1960-1979” Lüthi reflects the analyses of the reasons for the that period’s shift in China’s foreign policy development from that of a pariah nation to a respected world power focusing on ideology and modernisation, covering the conflict between revolutionary and modernising impulses that by 1966-76 had led China to international political isolation and global economic integration, China’s rapid emergence in international relations from 1968 to 1972, and the success of modernisation.

In Chapter Seven, “Japan’s Foreign Policy under Détente: Relations with China and the Soviet Union, 1971-1973” Togo examines firstly, Prime Minister Sato Eisaku’s intention to overcome unresolved issues from World War II by seeking rapprochement with China (diplomatic relations with mainland China) and the SU (conclusion of a peace treaty with the SU, diplomatic relations) illustrating that with Nixon-Kissinger rapprochement with Beijing without consulting Japan as quest for geopolitically superior-oriented US-China foreign policy independent of Japan (Nixon shock); and secondly, Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei’s attempt at foreign policy independent of the US, culminating with establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and China that required solving the important issues of the status of Taiwan and the US-Japanese Security Treaty, but also failure of Japan’s rapprochement with the SU.

In Chapter Eight, “A Strategic Quadrangle: The Superpowers and the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1977-1978” Hasegawa (himself) examines  the changing relations between the US, Japan, the SU, and China – thus the Cold War’s structure in the light of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship (PFT). Arguing that Japan had no other alternatives than to establish with the PFT a foundation for further expansion of economic relations with China by accepting the hegemony clause, he alleges that Japan “failed to maintain an omnidirectional foreign policy” (p.15) manoeuvring between “entente with China against the SU and contributing to the crisis of détente” (ibid.).

In Chapter Nine, “Korea’s Great Divergence: North and South Korea between 1972 and 1987” Brazinsky explains the contrast between Korean versions of capitalism and communism – how from the similar stage of economic development “interactive” South Korea rapidly developed into modern economics at the time when North Korea became gradually more dependent on Soviet and Chinese assistance and economically stagnant – Brazinsky indicates the difference in reaction of the two Koreas to the economic challenge of the 1970s – he describes the developments as follows – while South Korea used Japanese credit and capital, followed the new global capitalism’s effective development strategy, North Korea remained isolated from the entire global economic system.

In Chapter Ten, “Gorbachev’s Policy toward East Asia, 1985-1991” Zubok describes Gorbachev’s contribution to Soviet security and peace through his inconsistent, gradualist, conservative, primarily security-oriented, impressive, and lasting approach to Asia, and how Gorbachev’s Vladivostok speech intended to initiate a new Asian policy but did still not propose “common Asian house” although the speech referred to “common European house”. While Zubok argues that Gorbachev’s policy toward Asia remained only a secondary priority after his US and Western European policy, he demonstrates how Gorbachev was active and achieved rapprochement with China thus ending the Sino-Soviet conflict, still failing to accomplish reconciliation with Japan.

In Chapter Eleven, “Inertia and Change: Soviet Policy toward Korea, 1985-1991” Radchenko demonstrates the confrontation of the US and its allies (named “Washington-Tokyo-Seoul axis” at p.290); Soviet policy toward the two Koreas during the perestroika period – how North Korea became more isolated, and how Soviet interests in South Korea improved in 1988 under Nordpolitik as “kind of a South Korean version of West Germany’s Ostpolitik” (p.297). Radchenko distinguishes between Gorbachev’s liberal policy (indicating even its ad hoc nature at p.305), and the Soviet military and KGB that allegedly influenced the Foreign Ministry headed by Eduard Shevardnadze.

Hasegawa himself also explains the shift in the end of 1950s marking how China become the US’s most dangerous enemy instead of the SU, and the developments toward American War against Vietnam, how Johnson viewed North Vietnam as China’s proxy although he moved toward an “open door”’ policy toward China, how Nixon and Kissinger played of the “China card”, Carter’s and his security adviser Brzezinski’s China policy, Reagan’s pro-Taiwan policy, and how Gorbachev’s perestroika challenged the US – because Hasegawa considers these issues crucial but not sufficiently covered in this book. Hasegawa also stresses the tremendous impact of the Vietnam War and its aftermath on the dynamics of Cold War in Asia, and he recommends to view the US policy not directed at Vietnam but toward the general Cold War Context in East Asia.

Hasegawa understands the ways the Cold War as East-West contest appeared (and the reader might still recognise the contest in some parts /places of the world) as “fronts” – the primary front as in the structures of the NATO and WPO, divided Germany and its capital Berlin, and divided Europe generally (we know it today also under the names „variable geometry“, „bi-polarity“, „multi-polarity“, „two-speed“, „multi-speed“ but also „unity in diversity“ or even the term „europeanisation“ might in some contexts refer to the inner division – reviser’s remark); under the secondary front Hasegawa places divided Vietnam and Korea, comparing North Korea and South Korea with Easten and Western Germany and asking for the possibility of their unification; also the question of Kurili Islands could suit under the second front; under the tertiary front Hasegawa places the developing world or “Third World” with its post-colonial inner divisions in Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa; and under the fourth front Hasegawa places inner (political) divisions in each state. (One could claim, for example, that Estonia, as most of European States, is a divided society in the meaning of security, political history, immigration questions, forced by propaganda, etc.). The fronts should not be viewed as hierarchical!

Although the year of 1989 is regarded as collapse of communism, and 1991 as end of the SU, these developments characterise developments in Eastern Europe while the communist regimes continued their existence in China and North Korea in East Asia, and in Vietnam and Laos in Southeast Asia. These developments can be illustrated by reunification of the two Germanies while two Koreas remained separated. On the other hand, the US in Europe formed a security alliance with liberal democracies, while the US in Asia created a network of bilateral dominant security alliances with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Vietnam.

Hasegawa is of opinion that absent from among scientific books is an authoritative synthesis of interconnected attention to Japan and Korea such as the origins of the Korean War, the conclusion and evolution of the US-Japan security treaty, the Okinawa reversion, the Northern Territories dispute, US-Japanese trade friction, and deeper insight into the role of the SU and the US in this context.