24 January 2020
Left to right: Prof Eiichi Motono, Prof Junko Tomaru, Mr Hayato Watarai and Prof Steve Tsang
Professor Steve Tsang (Director, SOAS China Institute) went to Tokyo, Sapporo and Otaru as a guest of the Government of Japan for a week in December. It was for exchanging views with colleagues in Japan as well as for exploring scope for cooperation.
He met with Dr Kiyohiko Toyama (State Minister of Finance), officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry, Rira Momma (Head of China Division) at the National Institute for Defense Studies, Tatsuya Tanami of the Nippon Foundation as well as leading scholars on China. The latter are Professor Akio Takahara and Professor Harumi Goto-Shibata of Tokyo University, Professor Eiichi Motono and Professor Junko Tomaru of Waseda University, as well as Professor Ken Endo of Hokkaido University.
This visit enabled Steve to have invaluable exchanges with academic colleagues in Japan who are engaging in thought-provoking research on China. The reality that Japan’s China specialists are not very well integrated with the community of China scholars in the UK makes this visit particularly valuable. It has enabled both sides to get to know each other better and explore potential areas of collaboration, including having more China hands from Japan to visit and speak at SOAS.
Steve’s meetings with various Japanese officials also enabled them to engage in dynamic discussions on Japan’s interest in and links with China. Steve found, for example, his meeting with Dr Toyama highly illuminating as Dr Toyama generously shared insights on his long-standing engagement with Chinese colleagues. Steve also benefited from discussions with scholars at the National Institute for Defense Studies and the Nippon Foundation, where they explored areas for collaboration.
Overall Steve was deeply impressed with developments in Japan, as his hosts not only shared views on China Studies but also insights on Japan’s foreign policy, politics and on the changing attitude of its citizens. As a political scientist and historian who has worked on the Second World War in Asia, he was particularly taken with the contrast of Japan today against that of the inter-war era.