This stimulating collection of essays is the product of a series of three conferences organized by the Center for Cold War Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, under the direction of Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. The contributions by eleven scholars draw on new archival research, primarily in recently opened records in Russia and China. Hasegawa frames the volume as an attempt to differentiate the Cold War in East Asia (excluding Southeast Asia) from that of its first front, Europe. However, these essays do not offer a new synthesis of this enormous subject. Instead, they expand the definition of the Cold War, suggesting new avenues for future research.
Odd Arne Westad, in “Struggles for Modernity: The Golden Years of the Sino-Soviet Alliance,” examines this key relationship from the mid-1940s to the late 1950s through the lens of military organization, education, city planning, and minorities policy. He demonstrates that Chinese elites equated modernity with the Soviet model. However, Soviet experience included two contrasting forms: the gradualism of the plan and the abrupt leap of campaigns and purges. The clash between these two modes, not a struggle between supposed Soviet and Chinese models, destroyed the alliance and laid the foundation for the cataclysms of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
Chen Jian, in “Reorienting the Cold War: The Implications of China’s Early Cold War Experience, Taking Korea as a Central Test Case,” echoes Westad’s emphasis on the closeness and strength of the Sino-Soviet alliance as he offers a broad analysis of how the two states jointly conducted the war in Korea. Drawing on extensive research in Chinese sources, Chen concludes that China became more revolutionary as a result of the war and the alliance became more difficult to manage. At the same time, the Cold War became more ideological and more likely to remain “cold.” Ilya Gaiduk, on the other hand, emphasizes Moscow’s remove from leadership of the revolutionary movement in Asia. In the weakest chapter of the volume, “The Second Front of the Soviet Cold War: Asia in the System of Moscow’s Foreign Policy Priorities, 1945-1956,” Gaiduk cites some interesting planning documents, but unpersuasively argues that the Soviets had little interest in Asia in the early years of the Cold War. He ignores the ample documentation of Stalin’s intense concern over a future threat from Japan and his central role in the decision for war in Korea.
In the most original essay at the volume, “Military Occupation and Empire Building in Cold War Asia: The United States and Korea, 1945-1955,” Steven Hugh Lee views American involvement in Korea through 1955 as an extended occupation that followed a blueprint established during earlier US occupations of Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Lee examines the particular form of modernity Americans pursued in Korea, its impact on the lives of Koreans, and the central role of soldiers and non-governmental organizations in this process.
Nobuo Shimotomai, in “Kim Il Sung’s Balancing Act between Moscow and Beijing, 1956-1972,” presents important background information on the pivotal challenge to Kim Il Sung’s rule in 1956. Drawing on extensive research in Russian archives, he charts how domestic political goals prompted both Khrushchev and Mao to reconcile with Kim after the trauma of August-September 1956. Kim Il Sung then used his newlyfound autonomy to purge the Korean Workers’ Party of all possible opponents and pursue an idiosyncratic autarky. Shimotomai provides the most detailed account yet available in English of the political circumstances that shaped DPRK relations with Moscow and Beijing through 1972, emphasizing the fundamental dispute over Kim’s refusal to embrace “peaceful coexistence.”
Drawing on records of conversations with Chinese leaders found in Swiss, East German, British, and American archives, Lorenz Luthi offers a new framework for understanding “China’s trajectory from pariah nation to a respected world power.”(p. 153) His chapter, “Chinese Foreign Policy, 1960-1979,” discards the familiar lensof Chinese/Soviet/American triangular relations to examine China’s evolution in terms of ideology and modernization. He argues that concern over the latter often trumped the former, which, when combined with growing international acceptance of the PRC, eventually led to its reintegration into the larger world.
Kazuhiko Togo, a former Soviet specialist in the Japanese Foreign Ministry, draws on Japanese records to examine how Tokyo made use of the environment created by détente to attempt resolving its main outstanding issues from World War II: normalization of relations with China and conclusion of a peace treaty with the Soviet Union. In “Japan’s Foreign Policy under Détente: Relations with China and the Soviet Union, 1971-1973,” Togo argues that consensus on the importance of the Chinese market made it impossible for Tanaka not to pursue normalization, while Tokyo’s breakthrough with Beijing hardened Moscow’s stance on the territorial question with Japan. Moreover, the Soviet priority of economic cooperation and the Japanese priority of regaining the “Northern Territories” created a mismatch in aims that doomed the negotiations with Moscow.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, in “A Strategic Quadrangle: The Superpowers and the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1977-1978,” argues that viewing the great power reconfiguration in the late 1970s solely in terms of Sino/American/Soviet relations is inadequate. Taking the novel approach of regarding Japan as the analytical pivot, Hasegawa provides new insights into strategic calculations among the three great powers, particularly those of Moscow.
Gregg Brazinsky, in “Korea’s Great Divergence: North and South Korea between 1972 and 1987,”outlines the striking similarities in the responses Seoul and Pyongyang took to the problems created by détente. Both “sought new allies or ways to counterbalance the perceived loss of support from their patron states” (p. 255). However, while the DPRK’s new level of independence made it more difficult for it to participate in the emerging global economy, the ROK’s turn toward Japan facilitated such a process and thus enabled South Korea to far surpass its northern counterpart in economic development. Brazinsky’s discussion of the roots of ROK economic success is interesting, but his approach curiously depreciates the importance of the nature of North Korea’s economic system.
Vladislav Zubok, in “Gorbachev’s Policy toward East Asia, 1985-1991,” attempts on the basis of limited Russian evidence to ascertain why the reformist Soviet leader succeeded in normalizing relations with China but failed to improve relations with Japan. Zubok emphasizes that Moscow’s focus remained overwhelmingly on the West, despite the rhetoric of “New Thinking.” He also blames Gorbachev’s procrastination and lack of clear strategic planning, concluding that in East Asia “security concerns and ad hoc arrangements, strongly linked to Gorbachev’s personal predilections, mattered more than ideas and concepts” (p. 286).
Presenting the most detailed analysis yet published of Moscow’s dramatic turn toward Seoul in the late 1980s, Sergey Radchenko seconds Zubok’s criticism of Gorbachev’s ad hoc approach to relations with East Asia. Based on Russian records from the Gorbachev Foundation as well as state archives, Radchenkorecounts the policy debate within the Soviet leadership as Moscow moved incrementally toward recognition of the Republic of Korea. He argues that economic motives were paramount, while references to “New Thinking” were mostly cosmetic. He concludes persuasively that Gorbachev “failed to reap the benefits of a prompt recognition of South Korea, but he did enough to ruin the Soviet relationship with North Korea” (p. 312).