Bjarnegård, Elin & Joakim Kreutz, eds, (2017) Debating the East Asian Peace. Copenhagen: NIAS Press. 297 pp.

ISBN: 978-87-7694-219-9

Jiakun Jack Zhang

UC San Diego

​This edited volume from the East Asian Peace Program at Uppsala University, provides a sweeping yet thorough account of an important trend affecting one of the most dynamic regions in contemporary world politics. The authors present rival explanations for the dramatic decline in armed conflict in East Asia while pointing to many shortcomings of that 'peace.' Competing explanations for the peace include trade integration (Goldsmith), leaders prioritizing economic development (Tønnesson), international treaties incorporating China in multilateral decision making (Scott), withdrawal of external support for conflict (Kreutz), containment of religious militants (Svensson), and dissipating youth bulges (Urdal). The volume also grapples with the appropriate definition of peace, calling attention to questions that go beyond a reduction of battle deaths such as state repression (Eck), inequality (Bjarnegård), mass protests (Yap), gender norms (Melander), historical reconciliation (Guthrey), nationalism (Ryu), and great power rivalry (Ross). The reduction of one form of violence does not necessarily imply a deepening peace and may not lead to a reduction in other forms of violence. However, while the persistence of human rights abuse, societal inequality, political inaccessibility, and exclusionary norms undeniably contribute to repression and insecurity, it remains to be seen whether a normatively progressive research agenda will produce an empirically progressive research program. The East Asian peace is not underspecified but overdetermined. By adopting such an expansive definition for 'genuine positive peace', scholars risk sacrificing analytical leverage to advance theory on an already complex problem. This epistemological quibble notwithstanding, all the chapters exhibit an impressive breadth and depth of scholarship and anyone with an interest in peace and conflict studies or East Asian politics will learn a lot from this volume.