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China-ASEAN Relations: Economic and Legal Dimensions

Article excerpt

China-ASEAN Relations : Economic and Legal Dimensions, edited by John Wong, Zou Keyuan and Zeng Huaqun. Singapore: World Scientific, 2006. x + 337 pp. US$75.00/£41.00 (hardcover).

This book is based on papers from a December 2004 conference in Singapore on "new dimensions in the China-ASEAN relations". All but two of the fifteen contributors are from the two convening institutions, the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore, "hub of China studies in Singapore", and the Economic Law Institute of Xiamen University, "hub of Southeast Asian studies and international economic law".

The book examines the overall legal and economic framework of regional integration, as well as five key topics in China-ASEAN relations: non-traditional security issues (epidemic prevention and anti-piracy cooperation), trade and investment patterns, regional economic development (in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar), the South China Sea (fisheries resource management, joint hydrocarbon resource development, and shipping safety) and regional (Korean and Japanese) perspectives on ASEAN-China relations.

John Wong's paper details the critical issue of how to regulate the increasing competition between China and ASEAN countries in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and in exporting manufactured products to the same thirdcountry markets. He sees the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) as a key step in "New-Age economic integration" in East Asia.

Zeng Lingliang's paper describes the legal documents and agreements for bilateral relations between China and ASEAN countries, but notes that there are few hard-law institutions to enforce or implement the objectives embodied in these documents.

Lai Hongyi examines the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in early 2003. Initially, China "failed miserably" to counter the epidemic, but from April 2003 onwards it took vigorous counter-measures with ASEAN. When an outbreak of avian flu hit Southeast Asia and some Chinese provinces in 2004, China and ASEAN were ready to respond with joint pandemic disease control efforts.

Several papers address the central issues of trade and investment. Zeng Huaqun compares the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement with WTO rules, and details the different legal rights and obligations of the three ASEAN countries who are not WTO members (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam). Jiangyu Wang regards CAFTA as a series of parallel bilateral obligations between China and ten individual ASEAN countries. The proliferation of bilateral free trade agreements could complicate enforcement and dispute settlement under CAFTA.

Are China and ASEAN competing for FDI? Chen Huiping maintains that CAFTA is expected to increase intra-regional trade and intra-regional FDI flows. However, he also notes the difficulties that must first be overcome: for example, complicated and inconsistent investment policies of central and local governments

Chen Wen examines China's FDI inflow, its "round-tripping" investment, the recent decrease in FDI to ASEAN, and Chinese outward direct investment in ASEAN countries. He finds no consistent or obvious evidence that China's growth has squeezed out FDI inflow to ASEAN. However, competition for FDI between China and ASEAN does exist and will increase. He suggests that ASEAN economies should improve their investment environment and expedite regional economic integration within ASEAN to attract more FDI from China as well as from other countries. …