What will the future of East Asia be like in the years ahead? More than a decade after the end of the Cold War, we are still confronted with the fundamental question of whether a new world order will be shaped primarily by state, regional, or global forces and actors. This great puzzle of both theoretical and real-world significance has been widely debated among scholars and policy pundits of diverse normative and theoretical orientations, only to generate many competing explanations and prognostications.
This article presents an overview analysis of how East Asia as one of three major international regions is coping with the forces and demands of both regionalization and regionalism amid the twin pressures of globalization from above and localization from below (so-called globalization). States are recognizing that responses to the pressures of globalization are sometimes best when they are coordinated with those of other states. The presence of the dynamics of globalization compels the analyst to look beyond single-state policy to see what states are doing at a multilateral--in this case explicitly regional--level. The working premise is that the emergence and dynamics of East Asia's regionalism will reflect and effect the shape and character of an emerging order in the region and beyond.
In pursuit of this line of inquiry, the article takes up major issues concerning (1) why the second wave of regionalism has been taking place throughout the world; (2) why East Asia's search for a regional identity is so elusive yet enduring; (3) what conditions underlie the formation and development of East Asian regionalization and regionalism in recent years, especially in the wake of the Asian financial crisis (AFC) of 1997-1998; (4) what challenges and obstacles stand in the way of establishing a viable East Asian community; and (5) future prospects for establishing a peaceful, prosperous, and stable order in the region and beyond.
Whereas most existing studies of regionalism focus on a single issue, this article explores several interrelated issues as a way of bringing into sharper relief the outer possibilities and limitations of the regionalist approach to world order. In East Asia, the framework of regionalization and regionalism is most salient in the economic realm. In the security domain, the remnants of the Cold War framework still exist, albeit in attenuated form, influencing state security thinking and behavior, so that the concept of regionalism provides less explanatory power.
First, we must address the old question of what constitutes a region. More than fifty years ago, prominent political economist Jacob Viner commented with despair that "it cannot be said that they [economists] have succeeded in finding a definition of it [region] which would be of much aid ... in deciding whether two or more territories were in the same economic region." (1) Nonetheless, presenting a working definition of "region" or "regionalism" is a necessary first step to any meaningful discussion of East Asia's regional identity. The literature on new regionalism stresses several key linkage factors as necessary conditions under which regionalism or regional integration can take place among a group of states, including linkage by geographical proximity and by various forms of shared political, economic, social, cultural, or institutional affinities. Regions are also defined by combinations of geographical, psychological, and behavioral characteristics. (2)
Because "regionalism" and "regionalization" have been applied in various ways to Northeast Asia, East Asia, and even Asia, often interchangeably and without any conceptual consistency or clarity, it is necessary to make a conceptual distinction between the two related terms. Just as globalization is not the same as "globalism" or "universalism," regionalization is not the same as regionalism. (3) Like globalism, regionalism is a normative concept referring to shared values, norms, identity, and aspirations. In contrast, regionalization, akin to globalization, refers to non-state-driven--usually market-driven--processes of integration rather than to the predetermined plans of national or local governments. In this sense, regionalization can be said to breed regionalism, as the latter term is used in a more general sense to refer to state-led projects of cooperation that emerge from intergovernmental dialogues and agreements. Regionalism can be distinguished from regionalization in terms of intergovernmental collaboration: the former is shorthand for regional intergovernmental cooperation to manage various problems, whereas the latter refers to an ongoing process of economic integration deriving primary motive force from markets, trade, and investment by multinational corporations. (4)
From the Old to the New Regionalism
Since the end of World War II, there have been at least two major waves of regionalism. Both arose in the context of successive milestones in Europe--from the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952, to the establishment of the European Community in 1957, and then to the coming of the single market and currency after 1986 (the Single European Act in the mid-1980s and the Maastricht Treaty on European Union in the early 1990s). The first wave ("old regionalism") faltered and gradually fizzled out in the 1960s and early 1970s, especially in the wake of the 1965 European Community crisis and the challenge to supranationalism posed by Charles de Gaulle's high politics. Alongside the developments in Western Europe comprising the first wave of regionalism, regionalist scholarship arose among a group of young American international relations scholars, (5) all of whom had been inspired and influenced by the works of David Mitrany and Karl Deutsch. (6)
First-wave scholarship on regionalism was excessively concerned with measuring the level of integration and its significance for the future of the nation-state system, as well as the extent to which regional integration was being fostered by positive functional spillovers. Only tangentially, if at all, did it address how best to promote security, welfare, social justice, and environmental protection on a regional or global scale. In retrospect, it is easy to see how and why the first wave of regionalism studies ran out of steam: it expected too much too quickly from transnational functionalism while paying insufficient attention to domestic politics and the ideational variables needed for the construction of a viable regional community.
In the end, many of the grandiose projects for European regional integration had limited impact. (7) In 1975 Ernst Haas, a pioneer of regional studies and the chief exponent of neofunctionalism, pronounced that the neofunctional theory of regional integration had become obsolete because its core assumptions had become less and less relevant to the key state actors in regional organizations. (8) In sync with this pronouncement, international organization scholarship shifted from regional multilateralism to global multilateralism, from regional integration to the issues of "complex global interdependence" and their management via "international regimes," defined as sets of norms, rules, and governing procedures around which actors' expectations converge in a given issue area. (9) As regionalism (again defined as the conscious activities of states to coordinate their activities across borders) declined, so too did both empirical and normative study of regionalism.
The second wave of regionalism and a concurrent revival in its study came about as a result of a series of momentous structural and policy changes in the late 1980s and early 1990s, all of which are said to have greatly increased the significance of the intrinsic dynamics of regional forces at the expense of global factors. (10) It was the rejuvenation of European integration, epitomized by the Single European Act of 1986, that once again served as the initial catalyst. This was accompanied by a number of major changes associated with the transformation of world politics, including (1) the end of superpower conflict, which left more space for local and regional forces to exert themselves in world politics and catalyzed a shift from bipolarity toward multipolarity, tripolarity, or even uni-multipolarity; (2) the erosion of the Westphalian state system, accompanied by relentless globalization dynamics; (3) recurring fears over the stability of the GATT-based global trade regime associated with the Uruguay Round, which gave rise to the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 1989 and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) coming into effect in 1994; (4) the putative decline of U.S. hegemony in the 1980s, coupled with a more permissive attitude in Washington toward various economic regional arrangements; and (5) changed attitudes and policies toward neoliberal economic development and the associated adoption of export-oriented developmental strategies in the developing and postcommunist countries. (11)
This second wave gave a shot in the arm to the so-called new regionalism that was associated with or caused by a multitude of recent developments, such as the AFC of 1997-1998; the stagnation of global trade liberalization, epitomized by the collapse of the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Seattle and then again in 2003 in Cancun; and the launching of the common currency by eleven European Union (EU) member states in 1999.
Despite its seemingly remarkable comeback, regionalism today is far from monolithic because regions define and redefine themselves as they evolve out of shared interests and perceived threats among constituent member states. The post-Cold War world order increasingly reflects and effects different forms and patterns of regionalization and regionalism that are taking place simultaneously. The 1990s witnessed regions, regionalism, and regionalization returning to prominence in the study of international politics to a degree not experienced since the early 1970s. According to Peter Katzenstein, (12) it was high time to rethink post-Cold War international politics as an emerging world of regions and regional politics. For Thomas Friedman, however, "It's globalization, stupid!" Whether globalization has become the new international system, replacing the Cold War system, as Friedman argues, is debatable. But Friedman does capture the two faces of globalization, viewing it as a dynamic but double-edged process that is empowering more individuals, groups, nation-states, and corporations "to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before" while at the same time "producing a powerful backlash from those brutalized or left behind by this new system." (13)
Viewed in this light, the new regionalism can be best seen as a way of coping with globalization pressures, since most states lack the capacity to manage this challenge on the national level. Regionalism and globalization/regionalization should therefore be viewed in symbiotic rather than dichotomizing terms, as they are sometimes mutually reinforcing and at other times contradictory. In other words, regionalism is a response to regionalization and its larger form, globalization. Regionalization can take place at the same time as globalization, particularly given the lower transportation costs associated with geographic proximity. Regionalism develops as a means of dealing with regionalization/globalization, and this may then lead to a reinforcement of the latter (albeit, one hopes, on better terms for the states involved). In Europe, for instance, where regionalism has gone farther and deeper than in other parts of the world, the EU has been a spur to globalization rather than a barrier to it. (14) Although regionalism and regionalization are both components and reflections of globalization, they can also act as modifying …