Peace and Conflict in Asia by Timo Kivimäki

15. Sep 2008

Peace and Conflict in Asia


Asia has been a laboratory of various conflict phenomena. On the one hand, certain types of political violence are much more common, especially in East Asia than elsewhere in the world. For example, violence tends to be more controlled, systematic and authoritarian. At the same time, Asia has been able to avoid escalation of tension, and many Asian countries have generally been more successful in keeping the levels of violence lower in conflicts. Also, some of the peculiar tendencies make Asia, and especially East Asia interesting. For some reason, for example, battle-deaths have dropped, after year 1979, to less than one tenth of the levels of an average year after the Second World War, before 1979. What explains the exceptionally violent nature of Asia after the Second World War, and what explains the peacefulness of East Asia after the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Finally, it seems that East Asia tackles conflicts differently compared to other places. While elsewhere conflicts are often settled by focusing on the political disputes in peace negotiations, in East Asia only 3% of conflicts that have been terminated have been ended in peace agreements. All this is highly interesting from the point of view peace and conflict. Can Asia learn from the experiences of other? Can the peculiarities of Asia’s conflict patterns teach something for the rest of the world on how to avoid conflicts? Would it be possible for Asia to emulate its strategies for containment of escalation or control of violence crime to other parts of the world while at the same time avoiding spreading the less successful, authoritarian parts of the Asian formula of conflict prevention? And would it be possible for Asia to learn to resolve its conflicts, and create democratic obstacles for authoritarian violence without destroying its brilliance in avoiding conflict escalation? All this is possible and this is one of the reasons why NIAS has a research theme that focuses on Asian conflicts.

The theme on conflicts focuses on Asian violence on various levels (inter-state relations, intra-state relations intra family relations, etc.). It looks at repressive violence in Burma/Myanmar, and communal violence in Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia. While attempting to develop security theory by adding the Asian experience into the general debate, the theme also has practical objectives to offer research-based expertise for work for the reduction of political violence in Asia and elsewhere. This is why NIAS conflict research has traditionally offered research-based advice to Nordic governments, EU and Asian actors aiming at peaceful settlements. At present, NIAS coordinates a high level policy-oriented network on Peace and Conflict Studies with ASEM Education Hub ( In this activity, NIAS also facilitates inter-regional Asian – European comparative research and exchange of expertise for better understanding on conflicts. More information on conflict research at NIAS can be found at