East Asia Practicum (China & Japan), 2017
March 18-26, 2017
The spring break practicum I participated in Tokyo and Beijing in March 2017 includes half of the semester course Seminar: Foreign Policy, Trade and Security in East Asia, the field research itself, and final deliverable presentation. Each student came up with his or her research proposal with topics ranging from Asia-Pacific trade agreements, nuclear proliferation in Northeast Asia, Asian countries’ commitment to climate change agreements, history education to human trafficking etc. Most of the topics were covered and discussed in class, and with interview questions we departed to Tokyo and Beijing during Spring Break, conducting thorough interviews with scholars, students from top universities in the two cities as well as government officials.
One of the most valuable memories was to cooperate with other students in the field; even though we worked on our own projects, it was an amazing experience to listen to questions and perspectives of students from a variety of programs and background. We developed a strong bond via overcoming the hardships together in the field, by looking for the correct line to take in the busy Tokyo subways, helping each other to squeeze into the crowded metro and debriefing interview information together.
Most importantly, the field trip proved that there are no better ways through which a subjective comprehension of an issue, a region or a phenomenon is available than genuinely experiencing the context and conversing with the locals. Coming from Taiwan, I believed my personal background provides me more insight to the East Asian region than others. However, not until I landed in Narita and Peking airport, talking to not only our interviewees but also vendors, residents, and friends, that a concrete image of the contemporary Japan and China, and all the social, economic, political and cultural issues we talked in class are formed in my mind. If not having the chance to go to the field, I could speak a lot about the thousand-year-long history, economic development, status within the global governance of Asia, but not feeling the chaos, struggles and energy of a developing country in China, the prosperity yet anxiety of decline of a former power in Japan, societies that are not like anything else. All theories would have had stayed on the paper, instead of became a critical perspective I constructed gradually and now am able to deliver.
One of our interviewees—an expert on China-Japan relations in Peking University—made a hopeful conclusion when addressing the perplexing relationship between the two countries. As long as people travel to the other country, smell, see, hear and feel the culture with their own senses, interact with each other at a personal level, they perceive each culture differently and that understanding is the key to solve conflicts one day. Nothing more than this field itself proves the idea better.
See her deliverable
Visiting the Diet in Tokyo with former Congressman Mr. Suzuki.