Students & Campus
27 September 2021


Interview with Alma Weijia Chen, President, China and East Asia Studies Initiative (CEAS). 

What is the purpose of this student initiative?
The establishment of CEAS responded to the increasing demand among the Institute’s student body to make sense of the latest political, economic and social developments of China and East Asia.

The initiative is grounded in a strong faith in constructive dialogue and brings together different ideas, perspectives and cultures to build understanding, trust and friendship. The long-term vision of CEAS is to rise to the forefront of research associations on East Asian studies within Europe. 

Why did you decide to create the Geneva Forum on East Asia, to be held from 11 to 15 October, and what is the concept?
East Asia plays an increasingly significant role in shaping the world economically, politically and culturally, yet the world still lacks knowledge about the region. To bridge the gap, we designed this forum for intellectual, professional and cultural exchange for our student body and beyond.

During this forum, we want to offer academic insights, networking opportunities and fun for students, scholars and professionals with an interest in East Asia from around the world.

Will gender, diversity, inclusion and sustainability issues be present in the discussions, and why?

Gender and diversity issues have become a hot topic of debate in recent years in East Asia. We aim to understand the motivations, importance and challenges faced by the social movements underway in each East Asian country, particularly by looking at how conservative gender norms have been formed in this region.

Like with gender issues, East Asia is more concerned than ever about environmental sustainability as a region experiencing air pollution, severe changes in climate patterns, and extreme weather disasters.

We will discuss how East Asia has contributed individually and collectively to sharing the burden of combating climate change as an emerging climate actor. 

How do you see the evolution of the role of East Asia in the world?

We see East Asia as caught between two contradictory instincts. The first instinct is to engage more with the world by participating in international efforts and assisting with international development.

The second instinct is to keep the East Asian states’ traditional inward focus by preserving their identities and establishing their own narratives.

These two instincts are not isolated; sometimes one can reinforce the other. How the various East Asian states decide to balance these two pressures will certainly have a significant effect on the future of East Asia’s place in the world.

But equally important is how the discourse and deeds of East Asian countries are received internationally. So, it is imperative to understand East Asia’s position in a global context to better make sense of today and tomorrow’s world.