Dr. Casper Wits is a historian of modern East Asia, with a primary research interest in diplomatic and international history during the Cold War, especially Sino-Japanese relations in the 1945-1972 period. He received his PhD from Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, in 2016 and spent many years doing research in China, Taiwan, and Japan. He was then a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies at the University of Tübingen (2017-2018). His research focuses on the establishment and development of diplomatic mechanisms as well as transnational networks between Japan and China during the Cold War, the characteristics of which still influence bilateral relations today.
Dr. Wits’ current research project is concerned with the role of journalists as commentators and political mediators between China and Japan and their influence on the reconciliation and rapprochement processes in the decades following the end of the war. Of special interest in his research have been continuities in Sino-Japanese interactions before and after 1945. Central in the (re)creation of postwar Sino-Japanese relations was China’s most prominent Japan specialist, Liao Chengzhi; a close confidant of Premier Zhou Enlai whose personal network in Japan in many ways formed the bedrock on which Beijing’s Japan policy was founded. Many of the Chinese diplomats and journalists involved in these networks were Overseas Chinese (and Taiwanese) from Japan who had “returned” to China after 1945 or 1949, or Chinese who had grown up in the Manchukuo puppet state, while many of their Japanese counterparts had long-standing ties to China that had their roots in the pre-1945 era. For the journalists, such a transnational background made them well-suited for a role in the shaping of public opinion regarding the other country through their coverage, and it makes the focus on their experience a particularly potent angle from which to deepen our understanding of how the Sino-Japanese war and its ending were understood and how this understanding influenced the redrafting of the international order in postwar East Asia. Through a closer look at how historical issues were dealt with at the time we can hopefully further our insight into why these issues have continued to haunt bilateral relations, making the history of journalism in Sino-Japanese relations highly relevant to understanding the present predicament.
As a research associate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Dr. Wits will work towards the publication of a monograph on the aforementioned Japanese and Chinese journalists in the context of Sino-Japanese relations in the decades after 1945. Additionally he will complete a scholarly article on attitudes towards and debates on China among Japanese conservatives in the years before and after the founding of the LDP in 1955, by looking at the activities of Matsumura Kenzō and the formation of the LDP’s “China Faction.”