Institute of East Asian Studies

The strongest motivation for individuals to build social institutions comes from the dangers but also the opportunities posed by risks and uncertainties. Understanding the dynamics of this situation and comparing different economic and social systems is the overriding concern of the research focus on "Risk and East Asia" at the UDE's Institute of East Asian Studies.
What are the risks driving social organisation? Threats posed by natural disasters are an obvious example, but triggers can also be found in contemporary economic, social and political developments. The strategic decisions of the Chinese government, for example, between the market and the state and between democratic and authoritative leadership are subject to a calculation of risk. Problems underlie issues of social security in all East Asian countries. Risk is an important part of international relations - both within the East Asian region (for example reactions to the North Korean threat) as well as between East Asia and Europe: what are the preconditions for jointly averting global threats such as climate change? How can corporations prepare for the risks of entering foreign markets? The cultural dimension is also significant and must not be neglected, since risks and opportunities are experienced subjectively. Power and interests thus play a role in the perception, repression and treatment of risks, in other words risk management.
In the last few years, the Institute of East Asian Studies has carried out numerous research projects, including six granted by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as a consortium, on change and the stability of institutions in East Asia. The processes of globalisation, the forging of increasingly strong economic and political ties, and also country-specific factors have created substantial pressure for change in Japan and the People's Republic of China. Liberalisation and weakening of institutions have been forecast by many authors writing about this part of the world; yet at the same time, the countries of East Asia are considered to be highly stability-oriented. The projects carried out by the joint research initiative analysed these developments from the vantage points of various academic disciplines, but always on the basis of shared concepts from the field of institutional theory. Analysis covered various arenas of activity, e. g. markets and regions, and dealt with various topics, e. g. regional democratisation processes, construction industry lobbying, property rights in township village enterprises, and labour market structure. One of the insights emerging from the research collaboration is that the dramatic changes now taking place cannot be fully explained by the current trends towards liberalisation or by a breakdown of traditional institutions. Rather, institutional transformation is a multifaceted phenomenon. Existing institutions have been supplanted or transformed, often creating stable networks which promote stability in Japan and China, while leaving scope for adjustment.
The founding of the East Asian Studies Graduate School in 2006 brought research and teaching even closer together at IN-EAST. In the accredited Contemporary East Asian Studies Master programme (CEAS), which is conducted in English, small groups of international students pursue courses of study in extremely close proximity to research. Some of these students will have the opportunity to acquire an additional qualification by entering the Doctoral Programme in East Asian Studies, to which the DFG-funded Research Training Group on Risk and East Asia was added in 2009.