For me, in the flood of news a headline bears special importance for Northeast Asia security. The guideline reiterated by President Hu Jintao about boosting the "cultural soft power" of China recognizes that "culture has increasingly become a major element bringing together the people and the creative power of Chinese nationality".
Underlining the importance of culture it was stated by leaders in the field, that culture is a "fundamental attribute of a nation" and "a major driving force for economic growth".
Actually, the guideline could be an important factor if we extend our scope to the regional level.
Generally speaking, there are at least two aspects in security regimes among nations: the hard ones like military strategic balance, diplomatic relations including treaties and organizations, and the soft ones including culture governing relations among people, the attitude toward one another, implicit assurances about expected behavior of the other side, common values - implicit and explicit both - shared identity, and the sense of attachment or belonging.
Despite increasing our importance for each other everyday in trade economics, the environment, culture, tourism and even shopping, we have not been able to build a desirable level of security regime in Northeast Asia. Our general approach to most of the issues is still narrowly nationalistic with little communal, let alone universalistic, element. Our discourse for governing relations among nations and people is still full of vocabularies of the past - either of the 19th century or of the first half of the 20th century varieties, alliances, rivalries, balance of power and hegemony.
Even our approaches to the understanding of the recent past are widely at variance with one another, even conflictual if not adversarial.
There are military aspects in the relations among countries, too, with each side concerned with the military development of the others. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s military development is also a big concern for the region.
Northeast Asia is becoming increasingly important for the world in terms of trade and economics, but we are still short of any desirable level in moral and political leadership, or in the realm of "soft power" just as President Hu said.
In 1924, Dr Sun Yat-sen asked Japan in his last public lecture at Kobe to choose between following in the footsteps of Western powers in pursuit of hegemonic power or becoming the bastion of righteousness in this region. The question still haunts the discourse on the security regime after all the experiences of human sufferings of the last century.
It may sound like a play with words. But the question should be more properly put in terms of "hegemonic power" or "leadership" in international relations. It is not a novelty for hegemonic leadership to be communal and not limited to a single power. We should build peace in the mind of the people in the region. And culture, if properly nurtured, is the key to security and peace.
We need to enhance people's awareness about the existence of a cultural community in the region. For long there has been a community of culture among us that revolves around Chinese characters, Chinese classics, and common textbooks for civic education, literature, art and religion. Most of our national cultural achievements may be viewed best in the proper light when considered not as a separate occurrences but in the context of constant flow of mutual influences and exchanges, a phenomenon commonly described by cultural historians as a process of interfertilization.
It is true that with the onset of modernization this aspect of the region has been in abeyance for some time. However, the common cultural root among nations of this region cannot be over emphasized not only for historical reasons, but also for the sake of the present and the future.
It will be incumbent on the nations of this region, especially China, Japan, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea to cooperate to preserve, interpret and develop the essence of traditional culture in a way it is meaningful to us. Our common cultural heritage is not only for scholarly research, it also provides us wisdom and know-how in facing the uncertainties of the contemporary world.
A community of culture can also be active in the cultural industries not only for commercial purposes, but also for preparing the people for the kind of peace and security regime in the region which would eliminate "poisonous fantasy" or "the most powerful anaesthetic" element from nationalism.
The rate of reliance on its own cultural products has increased in the region's cultural market: Popular among the people are mostly Japanese literature and animations, Chinese films and drama and music from the ROK. I hope we would coordinate conscious efforts in education and in other activities to underline our common cultural roots.
Moreover, the common identity or values we may commonly pursue in the region cannot be limited to Northeast Asia. They should be able to appeal and spread their influence beyond the confines of the region too.
The author is University Distinguished Professor at Hanyang University, Republic of Korea.