Monday, November 13, 2017

Studying the European Union in Asia: A Perspective from Taiwan

By Adalric Tuten, EUC Staff

On October 21, 2017, one day after the European Union Center (EUC) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) held its annual EU Day events, the EUC hosted a daylong conference on various topics related to the European Union (EU). Among these, was the keynote lecture that dealt with the burgeoning Asian interest in the EU.

Titled “Development of EU Studies in Asia-Pacific and Its Prospects,” by Dr. Su Hungdah, Jean Monnet Chair Professor at National Taiwan University and Director General of the European Union Center in Taiwan, the talk focused on how the Asian educational system approaches teaching and research related to the EU. According to Dr. Su, Asian interest in the EU emerged relatively late, in the early 1980s, and largely in step with an increasing number of Asian students and scholars traveling to Europe for educational and professional development purposes. As these students and scholars returned to Asia, they realized the need to establish a formal institutional framework for research on the EU that would facilitate the production of knowledge about the EU as well as professional networking opportunities within Asia and with Europe.

Subsequently, EU studies in Asia grew to the point that, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, a number of EU centers, much like the EUC in form and mission, developed. Today, these centers thrive and link a diverse group of Asian countries, from Singapore to Japan, together with the common goal of promoting EU studies. Yet, as Dr. Su highlighted, there exists an asymmetry in focus and concern throughout Asia, namely, that of concentration on EU-China relations. According to Dr. Su, this has to do with China’s rise as an economic powerhouse and emerging global military and political power. Moreover, Dr. Su noted an asymmetry in terms of subject matter focus, with Asian EU centers concentrating mostly on economic and political concerns related to international trade and intergovernmental governance. For example, in terms of Taiwan specifically, Dr. Su noted the predominance of EU studies as a supplementary course of study for political science students.

Hence, based on Dr. Su Hungdah’s enlightening talk about Asia’s interest in the EU, a number of questions arise related to the future of EU studies in Asia, including about the growing importance of India’s relations with the EU and new frontiers for scholarly and professional inquiry, such as in cultural studies. Whatever the direction the future takes, EU-Asia studies in Asia appears to remain dynamic.

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