Asia Europe Journal

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 129–143 | Cite as

Clashes and dialogues of civilizations revisited— the case of contemporary East Asia and Europe

  • Albrecht RothacherEmail author
Original Paper


This article sets out to inquire whether or not—political desiderata apart—genuine intercultural dialogue is feasible between Europe and East Asia, and if so, in which subject areas this could be done productively. It therefore examines the underlying value patterns which are grounded in religious traditions on both sides. It retraces the consequences which Communist rule had (and continues to have) on religious practice and ethnic identities of affected societies, and reviews the salient inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts which surfaced during the past quarter century on both continents. This is done in order to be able to qualify empirically Huntington’s theory on predominantly cultural clashes between civilizations. In conclusion we find a large measure of congruence between normative values of Christianity and Buddhism and between the secularized work ethics of Confucianism and of (Calvinist) Protestantism, so as to permit a meeting of minds. Conflicts were caused by the religious and ethnic suppression by Communist regimes (Soviet Union, China, N. Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia), by other authoritarian regimes (post Communist Serbia and Russia, Myanmar), and by nationalist: chauvinism. Conflicts between cultures (Bosnia, Nagorno Karabach, Abkhazia, Chechnya, Eastern Indonesia, East Timor, Pattani, Mindanao, Tibet, Xinjiang) occured as well as within them (Transnistria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Aceh). Huntington is thus frequently right, but not universally so. Moreover open conflicts on the two continents have rather been limited in extent and mostly took place in peripheral regions. Coexistence with Muslims is difficult both in Europe and in East Asia. But more often than not they appear as victims of aggression (Bosnia, Chechnya, Xinjiang, Pattani, the Cham) rather than as its perpetrators (Northern Cyprus, East Timor, Eastern Indonesia, and Al Quaida linked terrorism in the UK, Spain, Bali and Mindanao). In view of common values and similar problems, dialogue and cooperation should—and are—perfectly possible and potentially productive on a wide range of subjects, starting from conflict management and prevention, confidence building and reconciliation, to grand subjects of managing the consequences of globalization, of global security, of sharing experiences on regional integration, of lessons to be learned from development cooperation, on environmental protection and resource conservation, and on solving common demographic problems.


National Minority Protestant Work Ethic Faith Healing Falun Gong Islamic Practice 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Delegation of the European Commission to the International Organisations in ViennaViennaAustria

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