In 1925, American internationalists launched an unofficial multinational conference in Honolulu, with participation of people from major Pacific rim countries including Japan, Australia and the USA. As a result, a permanent organization, the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR), was founded. Through an examination of this institute, the thesis explores ideas of the 'international order' held by Wilsonian internationalists in the Asia-Pacific context in the inter-war period.
The IPR reflected...[Show more] the new dynamism in international politics in the 1920s, resulting from the influence of Wilsonian internationalism and the ideas of a "Pacific Age". This "Pacific Age" in the IPR context was an American construct, and reflected American confidence in the Asia-Pacific. Inspired by Wilsonian internationalism and the concept of the new era, the IPR advocated 'unofficial diplomacy', new attitudes to the Orient and a Pacific centred perspective. It achieved certain success in these respects during
the 1920s, but soon this new dynamism was lost. Although the IPR pioneered a regional-centred perspective and an idea of a regional community, it did not lead to the establishment of any regional arrangement. Instead key figures tried to make the IPR a more 'official' and world-oriented organization. As a result, the loss of the Pacific centred perspective and American centrality became increasingly evident
within the IPR.
This original IPR experiment was unsuccessful not because those who were involved in it unrealistically ignored the elements of the nationstate system and power politics, but rather because they took these elements for granted. Soon within the IPR, certain assumptions became evident. These concerned the moral justice of the 'international order', the coherence of the nation-state and existence of the colonial system, and they became increasingly evident in the operations of the IPR during the 1930s. While the nation-state assumption was not problematized among internationalists at the IPR in general, it was different for members of the Japanese Council of the IPR. Japanese military action after 1931 was seen as a challenge to the 'international order', and the dual loyalty of Japanese internationalists both to the nation-state and the 'international community', which existed from the beginning of the internationalist movement in Japan, became problematic. The same dual loyalty, however, existed among other members of the IPR.
Despite the historicity of these assumptions, the moral justice of the
'international order' and the national coherence was not generally challenged in the discourse of international politics even after WWII.
The trends which emerged within the IPR in the 1930s and 1940s, the loss of Pacific-centrality and American dominance, remained dominant in the discourse after WWII. A re-examination of the experiment of the IPR in the inter-war period can, therefore, clarify the historicity and limitations of these notions, and open the path for the possibility in a new age of the Asia-Pacific in this post-Cold War period.
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