Background and aim

An East Asian power shift is imminent, or so we have been told for more than two decades. The power shift literature abounds with explanations, warnings and policy advice, but fails to address the more primary theoretical question: How do we recognise a "power shift" when we see one? Power thus needs to be treated as a dependent variable.

This project aims to analyse how power operates in the context of an alleged East Asian power shift and with what implications. It will enquire if and how two major actors in this theatre, China and Japan, succeed in shaping each other's preferences, interests or identities, or such capacities of third party actors, in regard to contested bilateral issues, a power exercise known as "soft power." 

Since the soft power concept harbours a largely untapped potential to transcend the realm of agency by inquiring how actors are constituted, the program will also investigate the lineage of the ideas, values, norms and social practices that produce effects, and inquire how China and Japan are products thereof. 

Finally, the project will examine how the soft power concept itself is involved in battles over how to construct what is conceivable. Besides making a significant empirical contribution, the project will offer a re-conceptualisation of the popular soft power concept. It will also attempt to bridge the gap between the theoretical and empirical literatures on power by giving sustained attention to the central issue of operationalisation.



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