From Conflict to Collaboration: Institution-Building in East Asia

By Narine, Shaun | Behind the Headlines, October 2008 | Go to article overview

From Conflict to Collaboration: Institution-Building in East Asia


Narine, Shaun, Behind the Headlines


There is so much written about China these days that we sometimes forger that there is a good deal more to East Asia than one massive country. Shaun Narine's article takes us through the fascinating and important story of the building of regional institutions in East Asia, centering on the birth in 1967 of ASEAN--the Association of Southeast Asian Nations--and its development over the past four decades. It is a story of Southeast Asian countries collaborating to promote security and increasing prosperity for their peoples while jealously guarding their sovereign independence. ASEAN has grown from the original five to a membership of ten countries, and has been the principal organization within which China, Japan and South Korea, are developing their relationships with the countries of Southeast Asia.

On entend tellement parler de la Chine ces temps-ci qu'on tend a oublier que l'Asie ne se compose pas uniquement de cet important pays. L'article de Shaun Narine relate l'importante et fascinante histoire de letablissement des institutions regionales de l'Asie orientale, tout en se concentrant sur la creation de l'Association des Nations de l'Asie du Sud-Est (ANASE) en 1967 et son evolution au cours des 40 dernieres annees. C'est l'histoire d'une collaboration entre les pays de l'Asie du Sud-Est pour promouvoir la securite et accroitre leur prosperite, tout en protegeant jalousement leur independance souveraine. L'ANASE, qui ne comptait a l'origine que cinq pays, en compte maintenant dix et represente la principale organisation par laquelle la Chine, le Japon et la Coree du Sud elargissent la portee de leurs relations avec les pays de l'Asie du Sud-Est.

INTRODUCTION

Over the past forty years East Asia (1) has been fertile ground for the building of regional institutions in a process that has accelerated during the last decade. Today, the region is home to an alphabet-soup of inter-state political and economic arrangements, and appears to be pursuing ever greater levels of regional organization. What is driving these developments? How far may it go in the direction of greater integration of these countries? What are its implications for the structure of the global political economic and security systems? And finally, how should Canada respond to these developments in order to remain an active and meaningful player in the region?

Asia is an indispensable part of the world's economic and political power structure. The rise of China and India as economic powers and the strains they are placing on non-renewable resources are critical examples of the way in which Asia, by its sheer economic weight, is redefining the global order. China's influence on the world stage is being felt well beyond Asia, most notably in Africa and Latin America, and it like India and other so-called 'emerging powers' is acting to shape existing multilateral institutions to further its national goals. Asian states hold more than $3 trillion in foreign reserves (most of this in US dollars) and major Asian states hold more than $1 trillion of US debt. These realities are just a few of the indicators underlining the symbiotic relationship that has evolved between Asia and the rest of the world. In light of these developments, it is important to understand the shape and purposes of institutionalization in East Asia, a region where history continues to be shaped by a mish-mash of contradictory and complementary forces, all operating at once. Economic considerations push Asian countries toward regional integration even as other economic realities lead them to compete with each other economically and in other ways. Political and military rivalries argue against closer cooperation between Asian states even as these rival states benefit from stronger and deeper economic ties. The institutional development that has occurred in Asia over the past decade reflects the complex interplay of these competing forces.

The following discussion examines a few of the most important institutions in the East Asian region. …

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