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  • Writer's pictureYiming Sun

EAS critical thinking

Updated: Nov 13


The concept of East Asia is an inescapable issue in East Asian studies and is often seen as an established concept from a Western perspective. However, East Asia as a geographical whole, although ethnically and culturally close, does not have a permanently fixed concept of regionalization. Under the definition of East Asia, which breaks through the division of time and space and has the common existence of history, the present and the future, we need to liberate the concept and limitation of East Asia's subjectivity so as to achieve continuous objective progress and have a clearer understanding of the relationship between individual East Asia and the whole world. This paper will use the views of Masao Miyoshi, Chim Pom, Kimura Bin, and Jocelyn Cheung to discuss the critical idea of "East Asian studies" and the new East Asian studies I hope to see in the future.

I believe East Asia should not be an objective study. We should go beyond the subject-object perspective and integrate East Asian studies with the historical and geographical changes we live into better shape the shared future of individuals, groups and humanity as a whole. I will first discuss the defects of Eurocentrism with the East as the object, then discuss the disadvantages of Orientalism with the East as the subject. Finally, I'll elaborate on the possibility of future development and research of East Asia from the perspective of mobility. Eurocentrism with Orientalism as the core takes the East as an imaginary research object, ignores the unique experience of East Asia, and is an incomplete interpretation of the East based on hegemony. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the economy and culture of countries in East Asia mainly became homogenized. Under the background of western colonial aggression and the prevailing Eurocentrism, "Asia" became a spatial concept opposite to Europe given by the West, forming a cultural hegemony with the idea of "Western superiority and Eastern backwardness.1" 1 Martin Lewis and Karen Wigen, The Spatial Constructs of Oriental and Occident East and West, 42.

In addition, nowadays after the Cold War, the post-war international order led by western countries constituted international norms, rules and objectives with their own values, also forming another kind of hegemony characterized by manipulating the international system. In both contexts, there is Orientalism exists, which objectification East Asia. Through the transformation of historical understanding, the history of East Asia has become East Asia from the western perspective, and the geographical definition of East is constantly flowing from India to Japan, China to Vietnam and so on. However, despite the similar cultural background of Confucianism and Buddhism in East Asia, with the almost disintegration of traditional East Asian values in the colonial period, the model and development path of Asian countries are not single. No matter how strong the Western culture is in melting the Eastern culture, the Eastern culture shows different degrees of accommodation and integration, which reflects the self-renewal and development of the unique East Asian culture. While objectification and defining Asia, Asians also look for the uniqueness of East Asian reality. Taking Miyoshi as an example, he criticized the idea of seeking Japanese subjectivity with Western theories. Modernization is not equal to capitalism and Westernization2. When Japanese novels and politicians are confused about the changes in their own order, blind criticism of the past nationalism will fall into the blind spot of the West. Another example is Jocelyn Cheung's video, She thinks sometimes people get lost in the scenery when they enjoy it, and both the landscape and the beauty are no longer purposeful subjects3. This also applies to studies of the East. At a time when globalization and science and technology have broken regional boundaries, we should not only base on Western-style modernization theory and political demands of hegemony to deliberately cut out the actual economic and social development of East Asia. Rather than taking East Asia as the object, but should adopt a comprehensive and comprehensive perspective to study East Asia.

2 Masao Miyoshi’s Who Decides, and Who Speaks? Shutaisei and the West in Postwar Japan

3 Jocelyn Cheung,, accessed December 8, 2022,

On the contrary, the east perspective of East Asia studies represented by Sinocentrism has bound East Asia studies to some specific cultural and social backgrounds, ignoring the global, universal and fluid nature of East Asia and East Asia studies. Before the Western colonial expansion, the Chinese Empire maintained the hierarchy of East Asian countries with its eco-political power and Confucianism. Then the construction of the modern nation-state gave rise to self-ethnocentrism. The resistance psychology of modern invaded history and the longevity of East Asian civilization together formed the concept of East Asia's own superiority4. However, the research subject East Asia study inside also needs to be reflected: the East and the West have conflicts and mutually promote each other. The view that the subject of modernity in East Asia is a spontaneous and active evolution and self-completion of East Asian countries gives East Asian subjectivity a new falseness, as a specific cultural background binds East Asia. Take Chim Pom's Don't Follow the Wind as an example; nuclear radiation occurs in Japan, but the cause of atomic radiation is worldwide, and the impact of nuclear radiation is also worldwide5. Besides, Japan, as a country in East Asia, is both a victim of atomic radiation and one of the causes of its occurrence. Both views admit the global and universal nature of East Asia. Furthermore, the idea of East Asian studies, like nuclear radiation, is colourless, odourless, hidden and flowing, changing people by osmosis. Meanwhile, the main social structure in East Asia is family as the center of culture and collectivism as the center of politics to generate a centralized authoritative government. Therefore, under the characteristics of nation-centralism within East Asia, policies and regulations may become tools to maintain political authority, and academic 4 Rey Chow, “Introduction: On Chineseness as a Theoretical Problem - JSTOR,” accessed December 8, 2022,, 14. 5 TheCreatorsProject, “Radioactive Art in Fukushima | Don't Follow the Wind,” YouTube (YouTube, September 23, 2015),

research in East Asia may use to cater to the ruling class. Therefore, the development of East Asia should not fall into the perspective of the East or the West. The reasons for the modernization of East Asia are complex, and the system between East Asia and the world is also diversified. Only by maintaining a sound and sober cognition beyond subjectivity can people do new East Asian studies objectively.

In my opinion, future East Asian studies should break the limitations brought by the researchers' own cultural and social background, refer to the method of treating East Asian studies as an event, and explore East Asia and East Asian studies from a constantly flowing, changing and developing perspective, so as to expand the research field of East Asian studies. To create a shared future that better shapes individuals, communities and humanity as a whole. Take Bin's opinion as an example; East Asia as an event is an objective fact in space, while people describe it as a thing with a subjective position and purpose in time6. A change in understanding of the concept of Korean Minzu allows us to see a different Korea, and the shift in periodization in Japan due to its different Chronology also proves that East Asia and East Asian studies should be viewed from a perspective of mobility transcends subjectivity. East Asia is not a simple static international political subject, but trans-regional. The development process of regionalism in East Asia cannot be verified by a single western or Eastern experience, which not only ignores the development stages of regionalism but also fails to observe the complex pluralism of regionalism. In studying East Asian regional development, we should pay attention to the externality of East Asia as an object of "real history" and the internality of the subject of "natural history." Moreover, we should remember that regional cooperation and research aim to promote common development and mutual benefit. 6 Kimura Bin, “Time and Self ,”, accessed December 8, 2022,, 40.

Bibliography Jocelyn Cheung. Accessed December 8, 2022. Kimura Bin. “Time and Self .” Accessed December 8, 2022. Martin Lewis and Karen Wigen, The Spatial Constructs of Oriental and Occident East and West, 42. Masao Miyoshi. Accessed December 8, 2022. Speaks-Shutaisei-and-the-West. Rey Chow. “Introduction: On Chineseness as a Theoretical Problem - JSTOR.” Accessed December 8, 2022. TheCreatorsProject. “Radioactive Art in Fukushima | Don't Follow the Wind.” YouTube. YouTube, September 23, 2015.

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