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© The National Bureau of Asian Research, Seattle, Washington Kenneth B. Pyle is the Henry M. Jackson Professor of History and Asian Studies at the University of Washington, Co-Chairman of the Asia Policy Editorial Board, and Founding President of The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). He is also founding editor of the Journal of Japanese Studies, a founding member of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation (1981– 1988), and from 1992 to 1995 was Chairman of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. In 1999 he was decorated by the Emperor of Japan with the Order of the Rising Sun. His next book, Japan Rising: The Resurgence of Japanese Power and Purpose, will be released in early 2007. Note • This essay is based on a keynote address that the author gave at the conference “Pursuing Security in a Dynamic Northeast Asia,” held November 17–18, 2006 in Seattle to launch NBR’s Kenneth B. and Anne H.H. Pyle Center for Northeast Asian Studies. Reading the New Era in Asia: The Use of History and Culture in the Making of Foreign Policy Kenneth B. Pyle asia policy, number 3 (january 2007), 1–11 • • special essay [  ] asia policy The year 1989 was one of the great turning points in modern history. One international system came to an abrupt and surprising end and a new one was in the making. Rarely in history had the components of world order changed so abruptly. Almost no one foresaw the sudden end of the Cold War system. The end of the bipolar era meant that the international system was suddenly without a fixed structure and was subject to rapidly changing conditions. The end of the Cold War in particular opened a new era for Asia. ThecenterofgravityoftheglobaleconomywasshiftingfromtheNorthAtlantic to the Asia-Pacific region. A region that had been a colonial backwater when the Cold War began was now the emerging new center of world power and influence. After being dominated by the Eurocentric world throughout the modern era, Asia began to come into its own—increasingly subject to its own internally generated dynamics. For the first time in modern history, Asian nations acquired the power to adopt active roles in the international system and to shape their regional order. Asia in the post–Cold War era is in a kind of interregnum, however, lacking a fixed regional structure or a recognized legitimate order to cope with its diverse cultural and political systems, and having vast differences of wealth and population, competition for energy resources, arms races, border disputes, conflicting historical legacies, rampant nationalisms, and limited experience with multilateral organizations. This highly complex new reality in Asia came at a time when the study of international relations was achieving a new level of sophistication and could therefore provide analytic tools to apply to this complex region. The attempt to establish a science of international relations—the systematic study of patterns of conflict and cooperation among nations—is of relatively recent origin. It was in the post-World War II United States that the discipline of international relations flowered. Drawing inspiration from émigré scholars like Morgenthau, Wolfers, Deutsch, and the young Kissinger and Brzezinski, the discipline became, as Stanley Hoffman observed, a quintessentially American social science. Born and raised in the United States, the discipline of international relations grew up in the shadow of the immense U.S. role in world affairs. The new discipline focused its attention on the study of order in international society. “How states create and maintain order in a world of sovereign powers,” Hoffman wrote in 1977, “has been the fundamental and so far insoluble problem of international relations.” In the time since the early postwar period a rich and burgeoning body of theory on the  Stanley Hoffman, “An American Social Science: International Relations,” Daedalus 106, no. 3 (Summer 1977): 41–60. [  ] pyle • reading the new era in asia problem of international order has grown, replete with its own controversies and competing theories on how it is devised, why it breaks down, and how it is reestablished. The study of great power transitions is one of the most thoughtfully considered aspects of international relations theory; and in Asia, we confront...


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