Youngster in search of an audience

International Relations of the Asia-Pacific
April 25, 2003

International Relations of the Asia-Pacific is the result of a collaboration between the journals division of Oxford University Press and the Japan Association of International Relations. It is only three years old, but it has already published important contributions to our understanding of the dynamics of international politics in Asia and has presented important work on the wider debates in international relations theory from Asian perspectives.

While not without flaws, it offers important original contributions by leading scholars, has high editorial standards and has the potential to become one of the leading journals in the field.

For the most part, it contains excellent articles on a wide range of issues and demonstrates a high quality of editorial control. Contributors include high-profile academics working in theoretical areas of the discipline, such as Stephen Kranser, K. J. Holsti, Steve Smith, Samuel Huntington and Robert Cox, as well as leading specialists on Asia, such as John Ravenhill, Peter Van Ness and Baogang He.

It has also published important new theoretical work by younger scholars, such as Christopher Jones, as well as strongly policy-oriented discussions by the likes of Joseph S. Nye. There have been interesting special issues: one volume, for example, addressed the issue of sovereignty.

This volume should be read in tandem with the special issue of Political Studies on "Sovereignty at the Millennium", published in 1999. While the Political Studies volume is notably stronger in terms of theoretical complexity, the other adds useful information about non-western cases that do not always receive the attention they deserve.

International Relations of the Asia-Pacific is given free to members of the Japan Association of International Relations, thus providing an English-language companion to the excellent Japanese-language International Relations/Kokusai Seiji .

The intended target audience of the English-language journal is not clear. It will be read by Japanese specialists in politics and international relations, but the range of articles makes it hard to pin down. Some, such as Hidemi Suganami's article on the English school, are clearly introductory, designed to bring to a wider audience areas of international theory not well known in Japan. Others would appeal to a more specialist reader, such as Tsuyoshi Kawasaki's article on military doctrine formation.

There are some strange anomalies. For example, the inaugural issue has a useful article on the study of international relations in Japan, by Takashi Inoguchi and Paul Bacon, but the essay does not cite a single Japanese-language book or article, except for a passing reference to Kokusai Seiji . This highlights an underlying tension in the journal's aims.

Its eclecticism means it is hard to identify a voice or editorial core. Is it for Japanese scholars who wish to access English-language debates or does it aim to enable Japanese and other Asian scholars to reach an English-language audience? Or does its target readership lie elsewhere, for example, the Asia-Pacific? One hopes the journal will develop a clearer sense of itself as a journal of and about Asia, but for a global as well as an Asian audience.

There are minor quibbles: proof-reading of the submissions is not always of the highest standard, and the editorial policy of ensuring that all articles have numerous headings and subheadings is at first distracting and then annoying. The book reviews are good but, given the journal's roots, it would benefit from more reviews by Japanese and other Asian scholars, and more reviews of Japanese and other Asian-language publications. This would help give it a more distinctive identity and offer insights into Asian scholarship, as well as Asian reactions to English-language writings.

Nevertheless, the journal is a major contribution to the understanding of the international politics of Asia. Given the increasing recognition of the region's political significance and the boom in courses on east Asian politics and international relations, it will be important to scholars, practitioners, students and the general reader alike.

Phil Deans is head, Contemporary China Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

International Relations of the Asia-Pacific: A Journal of the Japan Association of International Relations

Editor - Takashi Inoguchi
ISBN - ISSN 1470 482X (Online ISSN 1470 4838)
Publisher - Oxford University Press, twice a year
Price - Institutions £87.00 Individuals £25.00

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