Asia needs new regional safeguard mechanisms

By Cheng Yawen Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/1 22:08:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT



The past two years saw the US pull out of various international organizations and provoke trade disputes with major trade partners, indicating the continuous collapse of global order.

Because of the protectionist tendency of the US, there is a growing sense of crisis in many countries, which has led to the emergence of "self-help" in the international community. Specifically, in Asia, the official interactions between China and Japan, the two major economies in the region, have become frequent this year.

In the meantime, India doesn't appear to be particularly interested in the "Indo-Pacific strategy" of the US as it doesn't want to abandon its traditionally neutral diplomatic stand to join the US in containing China.

China, India and Japan are all important countries in Asia, so their interactions will not only affect each other's interests, but will also have a profound impact on the future of Asia as a whole. With global headwinds intensifying, it is increasingly important for Asian countries to jointly manage the direction of the region.

There is a paradoxical situation in contemporary East Asia. On the one hand, the region is undergoing continuous disputes. On the other hand, there is a rise in the awareness of and mechanism for suppressing conflicts, preventing conflict escalation and solving problems through negotiations.

It has become the consensus of the entire East Asian region that disputes should be resolved with restraint and mutual respect, making the region a cornerstone of world peace of stability.

Asian countries need to find a new safeguard mechanism for their own future, thus promoting the joint governance of Asia and providing a new impetus for global governance.

Asia needs to use its internal strength to secure the economic development and universal security of all countries in the region. This role cannot be fulfilled by an external power.

The Asian community has accumulated a wide range of common interests. For example, regional trade accounts for more than 50 percent of Asia's total trade. Moreover, these countries have more and more common interests in terms of mutual investment, cultural exchanges, technology sharing , disease prevention and control, and fighting terrorism. A "correlative Asia" has been formed.

From the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, except for some countries, there were few independent political entities in Asia, not to mention normal economic, political and cultural connections among Asian nations. Generally, for the most of the 20th century, due to a lack of connections among Asian countries, there were only a few regional organizations with limited functions, and there was no general demand for joint governance in Asia.

When a common "correlative Asia" comes into being, it is very fragile and vulnerable to internal and external disputes, easily disrupted by incidental factors. For this reason, Asia needs to manage hot issues through joint governance to ensure regional stability and safeguard the achievements of development.

Over the years, Asia has accumulated more and more endogenous energy and has created better conditions for promoting joint governance.

First, a common Asia awareness and governance willingness has gradually formed. In the second half of the 20th century, many sub-regional governance mechanisms were established in Asia, with cooperative dialogue mechanisms that were actually suitable for all of Asia. Asian regionalism has gained wide attention and discussion in many countries in the area over the past two decades.

Second, the number of Asian political entities that are capable of providing public goods has greatly increased, and many countries already play a leading role in specific Asian affairs or the formation of certain mechanisms.

Third, Asian countries have gained rich experience in mechanism building and mutual exchanges. In recent years, with the establishment of various cooperation and coordination mechanisms within Asia, the region's self-management awareness and capability have undergone rapid development through increasingly frequent exchanges and interactions.

Moreover, the knowledge system for conducting joint governance in Asia has been gradually completed. Some relevant concepts like integration, community, globalization, trans-national governance, public goods, regionalism and so on have seen heated discussion in recent years.

While there is a demand for "common Asia," joint Asian governance will not necessarily come about due to internal and external obstacles. For a long time to come, joint Asian governance may still be an elusive dream, but this cannot be the excuse for not thinking about or promoting joint governance.

When the time and conditions are ripe, the initiative of various entities becomes the key factor, of which an important aspect is to break away from the negative thinking that Asian countries have formed when interacting with one another and to propose new ideas for a "common Asia."

The author is a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Shanghai International Studies University. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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