Visiting Fellow Spotlight: Ching-Chang Chen

Name: Ching-Chang Chen

Title: Visiting Fellow, SGPIA Department 


Ching-Chang Chen’s research interests include international relations theory and critical security studies with particular reference to threat perceptions, knowledge production, and national identity construction in East Asia. His latest article is “International Relations from the Margins” (Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 2019) and other recent publications have appeared in such volumes as China and International Theory: The Balance of Relationships (Routledge, 2019), Asia in International Relations: Unlearning Imperial Power Relations (Routledge, 2017), The Palgrave Handbook of Disciplinary and Regional Approaches to Peace (2016), Critical Imaginations in International Relations (Routledge, 2016), and The North Korea Crisis and Regional Responses (East-West Center, 2015). Ching-Chang received his Ph.D. from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and has taught as an associate professor in the Department of Global Studies at Ryukoku University, Kyoto. Follow along to learn more about his journey and work within and outside of The New School. 

1. What brought you to The New School?


Because of L.H.M. (Lily) Ling. I already heard about the New School’s reputation as the University in Exile when I was a graduate student, but my impression was mostly shaped by my 9-year academic exchanges with Lily, a prominent postcolonial feminist international relations (IR) scholar and longtime GPIA faculty member. I am certain she would not have worked at the New School this long had it not been an intellectually stimulating environment. I was very excited when I got the funding and my home institution’s permission to work with her on a highly original research project—it was as if I was going to do my second PhD with a wonderful advisor in New York City! Unfortunately, Lily passed away before I arrived at the New School. Still, I appreciate the generous hospitality provided by my hosts Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Jonathan Bach as well as other colleagues here. I am privileged to share the same office in which Lily used to work, and I feel her energy is both inherited and embodied by GPIA faculty and students.



2. What was your professional and educational background before you came?


A political scientist by training, I had served in Taiwan’s military as a low-ranking army officer on an offshore island near the People’s Republic. That experience made me curious about how we start seeing others as threats (and through which “we” become who we are) and brought me to pursue a PhD in the field of critical security studies at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Since then, I have been teaching and researching IR in Japan, a fascinating geocultural site that prompts critical reflections on various key assumptions in IR. Contrary to our common sense in development studies, the way in which the question of modernity has been tackled in the country shows that Japan (and, indeed, the entire East Asia) should identify with the Global South. Doing critical security studies in the Global South has led me to conduct research from postcolonial, non-state-centric, and bottom-up perspectives which are not detached from local traditions and practices. As the leading higher education institution for studying Japanese Buddhism, my affiliation Ryukoku University has provided me with an environment conducive to my research pursuit. I warmly welcome visiting faculty and students from the New School to work/study at Ryukoku in Kyoto!   


3. What are you currently working on, as a GPIA fellow? 


I am working on a Lily-initiated book project (“Political Healing” as she called it) which invites academics and practitioners of East Asian (inter)national politics to rethink and transform such on-going confrontations in the region as persistent conflicts in the Korean Peninsula, proliferating disputes between the two sides of the Sea of Japan/East Sea, unabated hostilities across the Taiwan Strait, or the widening Hong Kong—Chinese Mainland divide. The project is a preliminary attempt to explore why and how East Asian medical thought and practice can facilitate alternative ways of thinking, doing, being, and relating in East Asia. Grounded upon the Daoist yin/yang dialectics and the theory of qi that stress non-dual ontological parity and inter-connectedness, East Asian medicine offers a source of analytical and normative inspiration to diagnose these confrontations—which have taken the form of varied binary oppositions associated with Westphalian modernity—and accordingly treat the rampant imbalance in the East Asian “body.” However divided and conflictual they might appear, we argue that the aforementioned disputes and conflicts can be conceived as ailments within shared body politic. As a knowledge system and practice not imposed by any geocultural core, this medicine-inspired approach to conflict transformation in East Asia encourages local agents to resolve their problems on their own terms and in their own contexts.  


I also hope I can turn my side project “International Relations from the Margins,” which derives from a recent journal article (Chen and Shimizu 2019), into my first book in the foreseeable future. It asks what if we actually stop using the familiar state-centric, great-power-centered lens to look at the world around us, East Asia in this regard. Looking into such cases as the Mudanshe Incident/Taiwan Expedition (1874), the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands dispute, and boundary-making between Okinawa and Taiwan, the project explores varied discursive practices employed by relevant state and substate actors in framing, contesting and (dis)assembling totalizing claims over Ryukyu/Okinawa and Taiwan, as Japan’s and China’s margins, since the late 19th century. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s conceptions of power as productive and discursive and Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of the logic of sovereign power, I argue that the aforementioned “margins” as spaces of exception are sites central to the constitution, production and maintenance of Chinese and Japanese state identities, which have been repeatedly performed through violent material and discursive practices concealing these two states’ lack of ontological foundation.



4. Please list your research contributions and interests.


I have been interested in how threat perceptions are shaped by knowledge (including both academic and policy discourses) as a strategy of identity construction. In the traditional literature of nationhood, the existence of an aggressive Other is often treated as an important “push force” that creates the sense of “we-ness” as a nation. My earlier publications challenge that conventional wisdom by illustrating why and how varied perceptions of the “China threat” in the post-Cold War emerging Taiwanese nation-state tell us more about the islanders’ difficulty in the process of “becoming Taiwanese” than a cause of such a transformation. In addition to critical security studies, I have been participating in ongoing debates in international political sociology over how to construct an IR discipline that is less hegemonic, more inclusive and equitable in its knowledge production. From a postcolonial perspective, I disagree with some renowned scholars’ claim that the Eurocentric discipline (or what Stanley Hoffmann called “an American social science”) will become a more diverse and “global” IR once we start adding non-Euro-American world history into our sources of theorizing. I don’t think this is simply a problem of selection bias. Rather, it’s about how local/indigenous knowledge traditions can reclaim ontological parity with the modernist, state-centric and scientific paradigm in global politics, and I have been trying to uncover the discourses and practices of such marginalized traditions in my more recent works. Examples of these silenced or neglected discourses abound at the margins of nation-states, and this is especially the case in the late 19th and 20th century East Asia. While many IR academics and practitioners continue to look at the world “from above” (i.e. only “high politics” matters) and find the region populated with border disputes, we can see a lot more border crossings taking place (which are no less important) once we change our perspective from below. 


I would be happy to meet with GPIA faculty and students to discuss any shared research interests and possible collaborations during and after my fellowship at the New School. My email is:






Shih, Chih-yu, Huang, Chiung-chiu, Yeophantong, Pichamon, Bunskoek, Raoul, Ikeda, Josuke, Hwang, Yih-jye, Wang, Hung-jen, Chang, Chih-yun, and Chen, Ching-chang (2019) China and International Theory: The Balance of Relationships. London: Routledge. 


Vyas, Utpal, Chen, Ching-Chang, and Roy, Denny. (eds.) (2015) The North Korea Crisis and Regional Responses. Honolulu: East-West Center.





Chen, Ching-Chang, and Shimizu, Kosuke. (2019) “International Relations from the Margins: the Westphalian Meta-Narratives and Counter-Narratives in Okinawa–Taiwan Relations,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 32, no. 4 (August): 521-540. [SSCI]


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2014) “What Does the Demise of Ryukyu Mean for the Sino-Japanese Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands Dispute?” Perceptions: Journal of International Affairs 19, no. 1 (Spring): 87-105.


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2012) “The Im/possibility of Building Indigenous Theories in a Hegemonic Discipline: The Case of Japanese International Relations,” Asian Perspective 36, no. 3 (July-September): 463-492. [SSCI]


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2011) “The Absence of Non-Western IR Theory in Asia Reconsidered.” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 11, no. 1 (January): 1-23. [lead article] [SSCI]


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2010) “The Political Economy of Cross-Strait Security: A Missing Link.” Journal of Chinese Political Science 15, no. 4 (December): 391-412.


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2009) “When Is China’s Military Modernization Dangerous? Constructing the Cross-Strait Offense-Defense Balance and U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan.” Issues & Studies 45, no. 3 (September): 69-119. [SSCI]





Chen, Ching-Chang. (2019) “Sinophone and Japanese International Relations Theory.” In Oxford Bibliographies in International Relations, edited by Patrick James. New York: Oxford University Press.


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2017) “The Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands Dispute: An Ethos of Appropriateness and China’s ‘Loss’ of Ryukyu.” In Asia in International Relations: Unlearning Imperial Power Relations, 75-85, edited by Pinar Bilgin and L.H.M. Ling. London: Routledge.


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2017) “Taiwan’s Inconsistent Involvement in China’s Maritime Disputes under the ‘One China’ Institution.” In Institutional Evolution in the Asia Pacific: Security-Economic Nexus, 75-92, edited by Utpal Vyas, Steven B. Rothman and Yoichiro Sato. London: Routledge.     


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2016) “East Asia: Understanding the Broken Harmony in Confucian Asia.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Disciplinary and Regional Approaches to Peace, edited by Oliver Richmond, Sandra Pogodda and Jasmin Ramovic, 350-362. London: Palgrave.  


Chen, Ching-Chang, and Cho, Young Chul. (2016) “Theory.” In Critical Imaginations in International Relations, edited by Aoileann Ní Mhurchú and Reiko Shindo, 245-261. London: Routledge.


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2015) “The Weakest Link? Explaining Taiwan’s Response to the U.S. Rebalancing Strategy.” In United States Engagement in the Asia Pacific: Perspectives from Asia, edited by Yoichiro Sato and See Seng Tan, 89-114. New York: Cambria Press.  


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2015) “Unwitting Bedfellows: Taiwan and the North Korea Problem.” In The North Korea Crisis and Regional Responses, edited by Utpal Vyas, Ching-Chang Chen, and Denny Roy, 145-159. Honolulu: East-West Center.   


Vyas, Utpal, Chen, Ching-Chang, and Roy, Denny. (2015) “Common Interest Without Coordination.” In The North Korea Crisis and Regional Responses, edited by Utpal Vyas, Ching-Chang Chen, and Denny Roy, 160-164. Honolulu: East-West Center.  


Shih, Chih-yu, and Chen, Ching-Chang. (2014) “How Can They Theorize? Strategic Insensitivity toward Nascent Chinese International Relations Thinking in Taiwan.” In Asian Thought on China’s Changing International Relations, edited by Niv Horesh and Emilian Kavalski, 205-229. London: Palgrave. 


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2013) “The Expansion of International Society or the Clash of Two International Societies?” In The English School of International Relations, edited by Makoto Sato, Makoto Onaka and Josuke Ikeda, 165-185. Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyouronsha. [In Japanese]


Chen, Ching-Chang. (2012) “Useful Adversaries: How to Understand the Political Economy of Cross-Strait Security.” In New Thinking about the Taiwan Issue: Theoretical Insights into Its Origins, Dynamics, and Prospects, edited by Jean-Marc F. Blanchard and Dennis Van Hickey, 48-70. London: Routledge.





Chen, Ching-Chang. (2019) “Christian Wirth, Danger, Development and Legitimacy in East Asian Maritime Politics.” Social Science Japan Journal 22, no. 1 (Winter): 179-182. 

Chen, Ching-Chang. (2018) “Sheila A. Smith, Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China.” Journal of Chinese Political Science 23, no. 1 (March): 147-149.