Current Joint Projects

Research at IN-EAST aim at the analysis of changes of contemporary societies and economies of East Asia from an instituionalist perspective. More than 50 junior and senior researchers from the economic and social sciences cooperate in two large joint research initiatives – the DFG Research Training Group 1613 on "Risk and East Asia" and the IN-EAST School of Advanced Studies on "Innovation in East Asia".

Research Training Group 1613 "Risk and East Asia"

(funded by German Research Foundation; 1st funding period: 10/2009–3/2014; 2nd funding period: 4/2014–9/2018)

Risks, dangers, as well as chances are strong driving forces for people to organize themselves. If one knows more about the contexts and compares them with other different economic and social systems, he will possibly gain some new perspectives. The Institute of East Asian Studies (IN-EAST) at the University of Duisburg-Essen contributes to studies on those topics and sets "Risk in Asia" as its central research content.

Which kind of risks will actually bring people together? Obviously the menacing natural catastrophes do. But the current economic, social and political developments can also be parts of these risks. For example, the strategic decision-making of the Chinese leadership is subject to the risk calculation between market and state, democracy and authoritarian regime. And all East Asian countries have problems in the field of social security. So risks are important components in international relations within this region (how to react to the threats from North Korea?). Furthermore, they also play a crucial role in negotiations between East Asia and Europe. What should be done in order to avert the global risks such as climate change? How should enterprises prepare before entering to a new market? We can’t forget the cultural dimension, because risks and chances of life are subjectively sensed. Power and interest also play an important role in the process of perception, bargaining and negotiations ("risk management").

For further details cf.

IN-EAST School of Advanced Studies

(funded by Federal Ministry of Education and Research;  4/2013–3/2017)

The IN-EAST School of Advanced Studies constitutes a joint enterprise of researchers at the IN-EAST and colleagues in various faculties and research networks at the University of Duisburg-Essen. It has been founded in order to explore the issue of innovation in East Asia from a multidisciplinary perspective that allows for the generation of new knowledge and the advancement of new methodological approaches.

The IN-EAST School of Advanced Studies’ research agenda takes the embeddedness of processes of innovation in society as a whole as its general interest. In this context the focus will lay on the interdependent topics of electro-mobility and urban systems. All research activities shall take East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) as subject of their analysis, but provide interfaces for international comparisons and comparative research agendas.

Innovation is understood as a social phenomenon that does not only cover the act of technological innovation but must be embedded in specific ‘social technologies’ that create innovation-inducing environments and promote the diffusion of new technological solutions in the socio-economic system in order to succeed. The starting point of the research effort may therefore be seen in the trans-disciplinary innovation literature highlighting the institutional foundations of national, regional, sectoral as well as technological innovation regimes. These specific institutions can be interpreted as ‘capital goods’ determining the productivity of individual and social innovation efforts. But as these embedding institutions are existing in specific national cultures and follow different cultural, political and technological path dependencies, innovation in general must be understood as a process that is very much determined by ideosyncratic national and cultural characteristics.    

For further details cf.

Concluded Joint Projects

Stability and Change in East Asia

Joint research project on stability and change in East Asia

In 2001 our joint research program was accepted for funding by the DFG. The research program of the institute includes six funded projects, all of which got under way in 2002 and were concluded until 2006.
More insight in this joint research frame is given in a special issue of the journal ASIEN, Nr. 84, July 2002. For a link to the website with contents and abstracts please click here.

Florian Coulmas

Multilingualism in Japan

This project examines the special situation of growing linguistic heterogenity in a society traditionally operating under monolingual assumptions. The focus of study will be Tokyo as the place where the new multilingualism has become most salient. Concretely, the two dissertation projects concentrate on two complementary fields:
(1) The linguistic infrastructure provided for those parts of the population with little or no proficiency in Japanese
(2) The attitudes of the host community towards the growing presence of foreign languages within the city


Doris Fischer

Stability and Commercial Information – The Economic Relevance of Institutional Design Within the Information System

Stability and information are concepts with a prominent place in economics literature. The use of both concepts in a theoretical context is however, rare. It is the purpose of this research project to analyse the relationship between stability, information and economic performance, thus describing a new research programme. The project aims at analysing how institutions and institutional change within the information system matter for economic performance and stability. As the Chinese government is constantly stressing the importance of stability while the Chinese information system is currently in a process of institutional transformation, China is supposed to be a valuable starting point to demonstrate and explain the impact of the information system on economic performance and stability.


Winfried Flüchter (together with Thomas Feldhoff)

Japan‘s Construction Lobby Activities and Their Spatial Impact – Systemic Stability and Sustainable Regional Development

"Japan, Inc.", "construction lobby" and "sustainability" are the keywords of this research project in the field of economic and political geography. Its aim is to apply institutional theory to the problem of the stability of the "system Japan" with regard to sustainable regional development. It will assess this question empirically at several spatial levels of scale – national, regional and local. The focus is on the "Iron Triangle", the interplay of ministerial bureaucracy, politics  and big business that is the model of the "system Japan" and has long been a symbol of the country‘s economic prosperity. It has also long since become a symbol of the inefficiency of the system. In the face of structural reform measures, unmastered crises and the globalisation induced pressure to adapt, the stability of the system appears doubtful. The "Iron Triangle" is exemplified by the construction industry and its lobbying activities. In this connection we hypothesise that though the "system Japan" is quite fragile, as has been quite correctly confirmed in various regards, it still definitely does function in the case of problem-laden branches of industry. This holds particularly for the construction industry, which embodies like no other branch the parallel interests and the in-formal alliances of the most important actors. The basis of its existence is "dangô" – cartel-like agreements among bidders in public construction commissions. This mode of deriving income exists all over the world, but it is especially profitable in Japan for the involved actors. The analysis first deals with their power and network structures within and outside of the "Iron Triangle" at the national level. The discussion of the stability of the system and its effect on "sustainable" regional development will then have to be related to the prefectural and communal levels. Japanese construction lobby activities will be critically scrutinised with regard to conflicting "top-down" and "bottom-up" strategies – in the context of the general conditions, incentive structures, credibility and path dependency of the complex action systems and from the view-point of spatially relevant structures and processes.


Thomas Heberer (together with Prof. Dr. Gunter Schubert, Tübingen)

Is Local Democracy Paving the Way for Political and Social Stability? Implementation and Political Effects of Village and Urban Inhabitants Elections in China

According to official Chinese statements the institution of direct village elections and recently elections of urban inhabitants committees is of significant importance for the programme of political reforms. It is declared to be part and parcel of "Socialism with Chinese characteristics". Its aim is the consolidation of Party control among the local population. Yet, furthermore, there are obvious signs that this "local democracy" ordered by the political leadership tends to alter the existing order and strengthens the process of social pluralization and participation. We find distinct evidence of a political emancipation of the rural populace.
This research project attempts to identify the impact of rural and urban elections on political communication and political participation. It focuses on the changing attitudes of the local population and local cadres and their effect on China’s political system. It is carried through with colleagues of two Chinese partner institutes. Between 2002 and 2004 field surveys were conducted in three rural (Shenzhen, Jiangxi, Jilin) and three urban areas (Shenyang, Chongqing and Shenzhen).


Karen Shire

Employment Diversification in Japan: The Case of Temporary Dispatched Work

From the perspective of the expansion of a new form of employment – temporary dispatched work – the research has aimed at conceptualizing change in the Japanese employment system. The project received a third year of funding from Jan. 1, 2003 and has since focussed on two activities: matching the completed study of temporary work reregulation in Japan with a study of the same in Germany and the conception and implementation of a mail survey of a sample of Japanese temporary help firms. The findings so far point to similarities in the weaker involvement of labour unions in the re-regulation process in Japan and Germany. In Japan, the role of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor advisory councils have been marginalised in favor of the role of the deregulatory commissions formed under the auspices of the cabinet office. This shift in the venue of policy making has weakened the participation of labor in key stages of the policy formation process. Likewise in Germany, the Hartz Kommission, where representatives of private sector firms overshadowed the participation of the social partners, operated in a way to minimize the influence of the Ger-man Ministry of Labor and labor representatives. A major difference is however, the continued role of the social partners in Germany in implementing the Hartz measures concerning temporary work.
Further research in Japan has focussed on the marketisation of inter-firm relations, which we argue underlies the expansion of temporary help firms and temporary agency employment since deregulation. Four new reports of research were com-pleted in 2003: a discussion paper by Jun Imai, published by the Institute of East Asian Studies, a discussion paper by Katrin Vitols, forthcoming in the Duisburger Bei-träge published by the Institute of Sociology, a peer reviewed journal article by Katrin Vitols forthcoming in 2005 and a book chapter by Imai and Shire, also forthcoming in 2005. A complete draft of the dissertation manuscript of Jun Imai was completed in the summer of 2003. Uwe Holtschneider, a work-study student in the project, is utilising the project data for his Diplomarbeit in the Faculty of Economics. The researchers are currently preparing a book manuscript reporting the comparative results.


Markus Taube

Stability in Instability. China’s TVEs and the Evolution of Property Rights

For two decades economic and social stability in China’s rural areas has been based on the successful evolution of township village enterprises. These enterprises, however, feature a property rights structure which according to conventional property rights theory should make these enterprises highly inefficient and prone to quick dissolution. But as closer analysis indicates, exactly these ambiguous property rights structures may be the recipe for success. They constitute highly flexible best practice solutions for corporate survival in the context of rapidly changing environments in a transition economy. But as the Chinese market economy matures, these ambiguous property rights structures will nevertheless have to make way for clearly defined – stable – property rights structures.