Tuesday, December 20, 2005

AU, Reprised

There was a big meeting in Asia Recently. I'm not talking about the WTO--though that was a big meeting too. The meeting I'm talking about was a bit south-west of Hong Kong, in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. It was a meeting of the Asian Nations and it was held to try and figure out where the region is heading and where it would like to head.

News is coming out today of an interesting, if needed, outgrowth of the session: a new regional organization that will stretch from Japan to India to Australia.

According to the author at the Washington Post,

"The formation of the new group, decided at the first East Asian Summit, marked an attempt to respond to a conviction among Asian leaders that their region requires a stronger independent voice in world affairs and a new forum without the leading role the United States has played since World War II."
In a sense, this is an important step for the region as a whole. As I wrote last week, the quest for some sort of "Asian Union" might be out of the question for a while, but there need to be forums for Asian countries to get together and discuss--multilaterally--their concerns. The challenge facing any associations in the region, whether the U.S. (or Russia) participates, is how to give the organization enough teeth to be a legitimate forum for not only airing concerns, but resolving them; but also keeping the meetings from being "gang up on the year's bad-guy country" punching bag exercises.

Without some delicate and artful arrangement, any of the Asian Associations (ASEAN, ASEAN + 3, this new organization-to-be-named-later) will serve only to further separate and segregate member-countries instead of bringing them closer together.

Here's my first-blush take: the first few meetings will involve countries coming together the rebuke Japan over it's lack of full atonement for the abominable acts committed by it's military throughout Asia during World War Two. As China's regional hegemony and market-power grow, it will shift over 2 to 3 years to being a forum for Asia to band together in ways to channel Chinese growth away from their own economic interests and attempt to push China into direct competition with developed economies instead of those of much of S and SE Asia. At about this time, China will decide the organization served it purpose and walk away/retool it's mission to be more China-friendly, and there goes the idea of parity, cooperation, and equality throughout the region.

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