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A panel discussion on modern Sino-Japanese relations featuring Professor Arthur Waldron and Professor Frederick Dickinson. Credit: Imran Cronk , Imran Cronk

Using history as a vantage point, two Penn professors took some time to examine contemporary China-Japan relations.

Last night, about 30 students and faculty shared in a discussion with Chinese history professor Arthur Waldron and associate professor of Japanese history Frederick Dickinson on cooperation and conflict between China and Japan in the 21st century.

During the two-hour conversation — sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Government and Politics Association, the Wharton China Business Society, the International Affairs Association and the Undergraduate Economics Society — the two professors alternated speaking about issues relevant to their fields of expertise.

“We are excited to have two paramount historians in their field to really examine how important the history of these two nations is in deciding what will happen in the future,” College freshman and Penn GPA Co-President Varun Menon said.

“I think that their perspective will bring something significant to our discussions,” he added.

The topics discussed in the event included the history of the economics, politics and culture of the two nations. Two issues specifically addressed were the territorial dispute over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, which both China and Japan claim as their own, and the relationship between the two countries and the United States.

“I think geo-political shifts are critical, but the most important thing … is to pay attention to the role of the U.S. in Asia,” Dickinson said. “We cannot consider the two countries’ relationship without taking into account the U.S. policy positions.”

As to U.S.-Japanese relationships, Waldron said, “I think the Japanese trust the United States … which is stable, democratic and culturally more similar than China to Japan.”

He further explained that “China has no institutionalized or democratic government, and I think that the Japanese worry about instability in China rather than seeing it as a potential anchor in an alliance.”

College freshman and Penn GPA Co-President Louis Capozzi said that this discussion highlighted one of Penn GPA’s goals of this semester: “to integrate history into the discussion.”

Second-year exchange student Katon Lee, who heard about the event via email, thought the event was great, but wished there was more time to answer questions.

After the event concluded, Capozzi said this event was “very successful” and that the GPA looks forward to hosting more events like it on campus.

“I hope [students] took away the sense that internal politics and external politics are linked,” Waldron said. “Certainly internal politics are having an effect on the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.”

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