- Regionalism and Globalization in East Asia: Politics, Security and Economic Development
Mark Beeson has delivered a masterly overview of the place of East Asia within the regionalizing and globalizing trends apparent to us all. In eight closely argued chapters he discusses the ideas of East Asia as a region, the important role of history in regional relations, the processes underlying the development of the region's economic and security relationships and his understanding of East Asian futures. Within all this Beeson makes sound and measured judgments on concepts such as nationalism, processes such as integration, and factors in the strategic environment such as the roles of, respectively, the United States and China in promoting, hindering, or taking advantage of the nascent region.
Beeson is surely correct to point us to the ASEAN Plus Three processes rather than ASEAN itself as the most likely centre of gravity for the East Asia of the future. He is optimistic when he notes (p. 98) that even in a region as diverse as East Asia, common ground may be found "even in the contentious, seemingly non-negotiable security arena". And if that optimism is well founded, and common ground can be found in the security arena, so too can it be found in almost any other area of common activity undertaken if the will is there. Overall, Beeson's judgment (p. 254) is that the East Asian regional project is important because "for all the inefficiencies, excesses, infringements of national sovereignty and all the other costs of inter-dependence, if the ultimate pay-off of regional institutionalization is a more peaceful, more cooperative and perhaps more prosperous region, it will be a remarkably small price to pay". Important certainly, but Beeson is less certain as to the likelihood of closer sets of relationship, although (p. 238) "East [End Page 377] Asian regionalism is an idea that refuses to go away", and that in itself says something significant about the East Asia project.
All this and more is on the positive side of the ledger. But this is not the final word on the subject of East Asian regionalism (and Beeson does not claim that it is). As I indicated above, the work is an overview of East Asian regionalism. Its analysis is at the macro level and consequently much of the detail, the "glue", of East Asia is either glossed over or ignored altogether. There is almost no mention of East Asia's institutions, other than the obvious suspects: APEC, ASEAN, ASEAN Plus Three, the ARF and, in passing, the East Asia Summit. Certainly these are the main players, but there is a multitude of other regional institutions which conform to the norms of the "ASEAN Way" (described by Beeson, p. 219) as not only "central to its [ASEAN's] longevity, but also the principle reason for its ineffectiveness" and all reinforcing the habits of cooperation that help build the region.
There are at least 200 formal multilateral institutions with East Asian membership within the wider Asia-Pacific region. Some of these institutions operate within ASEAN, others take some sub-grouping of East Asian states to address narrower concerns and yet others include states from the Asia-Pacific writ large rather than narrowly of East Asia. The institutions are as diverse as the North East Asian Centre for Environmental Data and Training, the Greater Mekong Sub-Region grouping, the East Asia Hydrographic Commission and the Centre for Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific, all in their own way devoted to making the region work effectively. If this lower level of analysis had been included the conclusions as to the region's long-term viability might well have remained, but readers would also have a broader base from which to accept or reject Beeson's conclusions for themselves.
Beeson focuses on the region's security and economic relationships. This is not surprising given his own background and the high value we as policy analysts place on those relationships. However, there are other sets of relationships...