What is Asia and what are we going to do about it?
“There is no Asia… Asia is a eurocentric concept.” That’s how Lanxin Xiang somewhat bluntly began a recent discussion of the security implications of Asia’s rise. Xiang, a professor at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, was participating in a conference Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute titled “Asia 2012: Security Challenges and ...
"There is no Asia... Asia is a eurocentric concept."
“There is no Asia… Asia is a eurocentric concept.”
That’s how Lanxin Xiang somewhat bluntly began a recent discussion of the security implications of Asia’s rise. Xiang, a professor at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, was participating in a conference Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute titled “Asia 2012: Security Challenges and Opportunities for Development.” A major undercurrent was the topic of Asian identity, i.e. whether there are common Asian interests that override individual national priorities. Europeans have been growing gradually more integrated for most of the postwar era, but “Asian regionalism” is still a relatively new concept.
Clearly, not all Chinese scholars share Xiang’s skepticism about the rest of Asia. (He also stated that China is not rising, it is merely “restoring its historical position.”) Da Wei of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations said that while he and other Chinese intellectuals had previously been skeptical of Asian regionalism, multilateral cooperation over issues like 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and SARS had changed their minds and that, “among scholars, a common Asian identity is developing.”
A large part of the problem is the lack of multinational organizations that could from the basis for regional partnerships. ASEAN and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are two possible candidates, but the event’s keynote speaker, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, sees potential in the Group of 6, formed to negotiate North Korea’s nuclear program as a future framework for pan-Asian cooperation and negotiation with the United States:
If one day we reach a peaceful settlement on the peninsula, that might be the right time to elaborate this idea of a broader multilateral structure for security in Asia.
That’s a big if. Most of Negroponte’s presentation was fairly unsurprising State Department boilerplate about “working with our Asian allies.” China itself may inadvertently end up being the biggest driver of Asian regionalism, as other powers unite to counterbalance the rising hegemon. There are already some signs of this dynamic in ASEAN. This may also explain why Masafumi Ishii of the Japanese embassy in Washington seemed particularly bullish on India, the new kid on the block among Asian superpowers. He said in his presentation:
Japan is the past. China is the present. India is the future.
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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