Report on the Chinese Social Science Forum on 16 November 2016

I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Director of Borderlands Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Xing Guangcheng, to attend their Forum 2016 on “One Belt One Road and bridging Eurasian economic associations” on November 16, 2016. Director Xing is one of China’s foremost experts on Russian and Eurasian issues, was for many years’ head of the Research Center on the Russian Far East and Central Asia, and has previously been a Visiting Fellow at Hokkaido University’s Slavic-Eurasia Research Center. He is one academic with a particular influence over the formation of foreign policy in China today, and is a regular at the Valdai International Discussion Clubs convened by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  This event was largely attended by Russian and Chinese academics and consisted of animated debate over whether Xi Jinping’s “One Belt One Road” policy and the “Greater Eurasia” called for by Putin could be brought productively together.

On the Chinese side, many strategic thinkers from the likes of the China Institute of International Studies and the Development Research Center of the State Council were present, while on the Russian side, the attendance of Sergei Lousianin, recently made Director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, and those from the Far East like Viktor Larin from Vladivostock, was notable. It was very interesting that Larin, who had been one of the originators of the “Northeast Asian common house” idea in the 1990s, was now espousing “Greater Eurasia” rather than “Northeast Asia”.

The only participant from neither China nor a Post-Soviet country was myself, and as the seminar’s languages were Russian or Chinese, this participant was forced to brush off his rusty Russian in order to emphasize the possibilities for community building in Northeast Asia through the medium of border tourism.

It was my first time in Beijing for a while, and I was once again reminded of how Fukuoka is to the continent. I was also able to tell many old colleagues about the work we are doing at our new center in Kyushu University. It was noticeable how many of the Russian participants were very keen to attend our conference in Fukuoka next month. Kyushu is still largely a new frontier for most Russians, it appears.

(Akihiro IWASHITA)