Zhang Yun

Associate Professor, Niigata University

Zhang Yun is an associate professor at the National Niigata University in Japan. He obtained a PhD in law from Peking University and a PhD in international relations from Waseda University. His research expertise includes China-Japan-US trilateral relations, Chinese politics and diplomacy, international relations in the Asia Pacific, and international relations theory. He has served as a visiting scholar at the Center for International Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a visiting scholar for Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a research fellow at Center for Global Governance of Peking University, a researcher at the Japan Institute for Social and Economic Affairs of the Federation of Japanese Business (Keidanren), a nonresident senior fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University, and a research fellow at National University of Singapore (NUS). His latest book is Sino-Japanese Relations in a Trilateral Context: Origins of Misperception (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). He is a columnist for Lianhe Zaobao, where he regularly publishes articles on international relations. He also serves as an invited commentator for Phoenix TV.

Fumio Kishida, Japan's prime minister, center, during a group photograph with his new cabinet members at prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on 4 October 2021. (Stainislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/Bloomberg)

Can Japan rise above faction politics and become the 'bridge to the world' under new PM Kishida?

Fumio Kishida became the new Japanese prime minister despite a relatively weak political base. This shows that faction politics within the Liberal Democratic Party still provided some measure of stability in influencing outcomes. However, public opinion has landed on the side of wanting a leader with the gumption and vision to implement reforms and improve the plight of the Japanese people. But will this new administration be a force for change as the people want, or will the Japanese government go back to the days of having a new prime minister each year? Japan-based academic Zhang Yun takes us through.
The Singapore skyline on 22 March 2021. (SPH)

Do small countries matter in China-US relations?

Japan-based academic Zhang Yun observes that even as big countries take the spotlight in international relations, they can learn a thing or two from the way small countries see the world and conduct their foreign policy.
U.S. President Joe Biden (top left), Yoshihide Suga, Japan's prime minister (top right), Scott Morrison, Australia's prime minister (bottom left), and Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, on a monitor during the virtual Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) meeting at Suga's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on 12 March 2021. (Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

Quad: A regional military alliance to contain China will not work

The Quad comprising US, Japan, Australia, and India is still in its early days. Some fear it could become an “Asian NATO” targeting China, but how likely is this, given the region’s history of multilateralism in the security arena? Japan-based academic Zhang Yun examines the issue.
People walk along a commercial street in central Paris, France, on 23 December 2020. (Christophe Archambault/AFP)

Securing its place in the world economic order: The EU can't afford to wait for the US

The conclusion of the EU-UK Trade Cooperation Agreement and the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) in the last days of 2020 sent a strong signal that the EU will not wait for the US to resume a leading role in the world economic order. Building partnerships with countries like China are just the impetus the EU needs to deepen integration and build better prospects for itself. In this move away from a US-centric view of the economic order, the EU is not alone.
A clown interacts with people at a main shopping area in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, 6 December 2020. (Aly Song/REUTERS)

China has entered the 'gilded cage' of RCEP and is considering the CPTPP. What's next?

With the recent signing of the RCEP and China’s comment that it will “favourably consider” joining the CPTPP, are prospects looking up for greater domestic reform and regional economic integration across the board, and will dreams of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific have a higher chance of eventually taking shape? Japan-based academic Zhang Yun looks at the potential outlook.
An American flag is placed on a fence outside of the US Capitol building on 28 September 2020 in Washington, DC. (Al Drago/AFP)

Anti-intellectualism in US diplomacy: How worried should we be?

Intellectual elites in the US have traditionally played a key role in the way the country conducts international relations, and have guided the US government in shaping is foreign policy. However, the US's words and actions about China-US relations and the coronavirus seem to suggest that it has fallen prey to anti-intellectualism, with rationality and long-term vision thrown away. Japan-based academic Zhang Yun examines the issue and finds out if there is indeed cause for concern.
People wearing protective face masks walk past a large screen broadcasting a news conference of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Japan, 28 August 2020. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Post-Abe: Japan's first-rate society will be ballast for stable China-Japan relations

Fears that the post-Abe era will mean Japan paying less attention to keeping China-Japan relations on an even keel are unfounded, says Japan-based academic Zhang Yun. Based on Japan’s one constant — social stability — Japanese society will react strongly if Japanese politics returns to the factional or closed-door politics of the past. Their sentiments will be the political compass guiding Japan’s policies. Hence now more than ever, it is in China’s interest to build strong social relations with the Japanese.
People watch as fireworks are launched in Times Square as part of the annual Macy's 4th of July Fireworks on 1 July 2020 in New York City. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images/AFP)

A great America is in China's interest

Japan-based academic Zhang Yun says America's global strategy to create a unipolar order during the post-Cold War period is a mistake. But it does not mean that it has lost its window of “strategically opportune time” to be a great country. In asking "Who lost the US?" and "How America can truly be great again?", he comes to the conclusion that a great America will not only benefit itself and the world, but be in the interest of China.
Workers put up a mural on a Northwell Healthcare building featuring healthcare workers who are on the frontlines during the Covid-19 pandemic on 5 May 2020 in New Hyde Park, New York. (Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP)

America's tussle with WHO: Are UN specialised agencies 'toothless and useless'?

Zhang Yun reminds those bent on reforming UN specialised agencies such as the WHO of the genesis of such institutions. They were never meant to be supranational bodies overriding the authorities of sovereign states, but vehicles, hence “agencies”, that facilitate international cooperation. As politics is part and parcel of the running of any organisation, it can never be fully taken out of the equation. Rather, the question is how politics can be a positive means of achieving fruitful outcomes.