East Asian Futures: Past and Present

Panel organised by: Christine Moll-Murata (University Bochum)


Panel topic

Conceptions of the Future in China, Japan, and Korea since the late 19th century until present

Panel description

Concepts of the future constitute important narratives of legitimation. Germany’s, Europe’s, and the world’s future has already been shaped by interaction with East Asia to a substantial degree. To understand present visions of the future on a global scale as well as their historical origins, a strong focus on East Asia is indispensable.

The multiple crises of the year 2020 are creating a heightened awareness of uncertainty and risk. Societies, polities and economies have reached a turning point, and the range of changes is unpredictable. This panel offers insights into the conceptions of future in East Asia since the mid-nineteenth century up to the present, from the perspectives of religion and philosophy, economy, politics, urban planning, and technology.
Throughout the twentieth century, East Asian concepts of the future have varied from those of the West. This was attributable to a different chronology of turning points in self-awareness, sovereignty, and economic growth, due to the experience of colonialism, the rise of nation-states, and political system change. Since the beginning of high-speed globalization in the 1980s, some, but by no means all trends seem to run parallel.
Taking a chronological view, East Asia has experienced epistemological change through confrontation with Western ideas and political, economic, and military dominance since the mid-nineteenth century. The period before these interactions can be considered to belong to tradition, or heritage. The period between 1850 and 1950 constitutes an era of transformation. During this phase, the ideational, political and economic foundations for global interconnections evolved. After 1950, new regimes, political systems and ideologies made use of projections of the future in ways unheard of hitherto. This tendency of realization made the People’s Republic of China, Japan, North and South Korea, and Taiwan coalesce with and compete against each other due to ideological opposition during the Cold War, and also against the backdrop of global threats. Yet with intensifying globalization and the rise of the East Asian economies, a new phase began in the 1980s. This period has lasted until today, even if in view of the present crises and the latest de-coupling counter current some voices predict the end of that macro-trend.

In this panel, historians, political and economic scientists will present Korean projections of a Confucian future, the discourse on Buddhism as the religion and philosophy of future in East Asia, ideas of managing resources and planning for the future in ancient Chinese economic thought, concepts of future in the Chinese economy and society from 1900 to 1950, Japan’s cities of the future, as well as the present economic development in challenging domestic and international environments and the connection between artificial intelligence, leadership claims and power politics in China.

Paper proposal

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