My major research focus has been on factors influencing domestic and international stability, the role of elites and the exercise of power in shaping a new future. The nineteenth and twentieth century had seen numerous attempts to construct new polities and a new international order designed at the drawing board, attempts that frequently ended in disaster or war. It soon became clear that I was in need of using "story lines" as a starting point to grasp change in its historical context. I used a narrowly defined concept of "identity" to gain insights into the reasons why the drawing board approach to modernization had to fail. Nineteenth century Europe and its regional system of international relations among sovereign states became the starting point for main stream theories. At the start of the twenty-first century global order is still hierarchical, but the patterns of hierarchy, but actors, their identity, the exercise of power have changed. I used the analogy of the franchise system in business to approach the study of the contemporary international system. The breakdown of revolutionary order in China and the Soviet Union provides ample examples for the longevity of indigenous social and political structures. On the surface post-1952 Japan reinvented itself as a nation imbued with "Western" values only to discover half a century on that the structure of Japan's identity still differs significantly. Part of the confusion is due to the fact that concepts apt for social science research in Europe and North America need to be reexamined before applied to societies in other parts of the globe, especially in an age where discourse politics make it even more difficult to establish analytical concepts independent from partisan politics. "Security" in particular is a field of research that needs to be constantly aware of the historical and social/political context.
The global context
Having witnessed the momentous changes occurring in Europe between 1989 and 1991 I wondered what these changes entailed for the future of East Asia, and East Asia's relations with Eurasia and the United States. China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Japan, Nigeria, Brazil, and states deeply influenced by Islam as both a religion and a civilization, together constitute the majority of the global population. Their traditions set them apart from the idea of the "West" as represented by governments of the European Union and the US. China, Japan, Russia, India amongst others reviewed their political, economic and security strategies in particular in the period between 1994 and 1997. Japan strengthened its cooperation with the United States at many levels. In 1997 Japan unveiled its new Eurasian strategy, and endeavoured to increase regional cooperation in (East) Asia, an initiative given some urgency by the economic crises that commenced in the second part of that year. Chinese reform policies were essential in jumpstarting China's economy to become a truly global player, taking an active part in a host of international organizations. The economic crises that started in 1997 reminded us that the transition to a "new world" would not occur smoothly. Iraq, North Korea, Iran; 11 September 2001, Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein, and the GWOT (the Global War on Terror) became key words of a new age, with a renewed struggle between ideals defended by the "West" and its enemies. This new "Cold War" differed considerably from the age of the struggle between "Socialism" and the "West" during the Cold War. Widespread support for the War on Terror suggested a global alignment, a growing consensus on visions for a future global order. On closer examination it appeared that this was not necessarily the case in areas that reach from Eurasia and the Greater Middle East to Africa and South America. The ability of North Korea and Iran to withstand enormous international pressures, and the disastrous and tragic sequence of events in Iraq are reminders that "power" - be it military and economic power, or the power of religion, ideas and ideologies - cannot easily be calculated to shape the future. As in the past states and individuals are mostly unwilling to correct, or change deep-seated convictions even when disproved by harsh realities. Words (concepts, ideas) produce actions, and actions change perceptions of realities, but this process remains difficult to analyze.
Energy issues are sometimes presented as the major factor underlying long term geopolitical strategies of major powers in a rather simplistic way. The modern history of Japan and China and the setting of their international strategic relations differs vastly from the multi-nation system that links the US, European nation-states and Russia (Soviet Union). These differences need to be taken into account when analyzing the security strategies of Japan and China especially with regard to their relations with major producers of energy.