Japan’s contribution to ASEAN

Nowadays only few people exactly know where East Asia is, what countries organize East Asia, or why such extensive regional identification should signify more than some geographical region. Absolutely it is the nation-state. East Asia specifically means China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. East Asia is tremendously distinct region, as very complicated as the West. There are no exactly similar places in East Asia. Even though Korea, Japan and China have some common aspects in terms of culture and language, they are unique in own way. Also it is important to notice that East Asia has never, not even in the Stone Age, subsisted in isolation from the Old West.
Today East Asia has an economy which is one of the most successful regional economies of the world. The success of East Asian economy led to the question of its sources. Many researchers observed East Asian economy in order to understand how elements of their development strategies could be used to spread rapid growth in other parts of the world. Labor, capital, and technology are the contributors to the East Asian economic miracle. Labor and capital, as known as “factors of production”, helped in manufacturing product or providing some service. As for technology, it made the production of goods more quickly and more efficiently. There is no doubt that all these three factors can be presented as the reasons of economic growth.
As for political environment in East Asia, today according to the current news, conflict in the South China Sea between the US and China is getting worse. South Korea in order to solve this problem between two countries will hold summits with Japan and China in the 1st of November in Seoul. During the summit president Park Geun-hye of South Korea and leaders of China and Japan may determine whether the region faces war or peace. From my point of view this kind of summit can be in the future prerequisite for creating a regional community in East Asia. Firstly, I will review definitions, examples of glocalization and regionalism and define IR theories. Then Japan’s initiatives for formation of new East Asian community will be presented in the second part.
Glocalization — term combined by words “globalization” and “localization”, describes a product or service that is developed and distributed globally, but at the same time adapted for consumer in a local market. This term first appeared in the late 1980s in Japanese economists’ articles. Yahoo! is an example of company which driving force is glocalization. Yahoo!’s markets made a portal that is viewed in every part of the world and offers a lot of versions of its website for users. For example, people can use it in different language variations in 25 countries including China, Russia and Canada. Another good example of glocalization is McDonalds. The international fast food company shows glocalization by adoption food to local customs and preferences. For example, in India company offers for customers McVeggies instead of hamburgers because the cow is sacred.
The study of international relations includes a wide range of theories. Some emerge in the discipline itself; others have been imported full or partly from economics or sociology. Basic international relations’ theories: realism, institutionalism, liberalism, constructivism.
Realism – the international system is characterized by anarchy—the absence of a central authority. States are independent and thus autonomous of each other; no inherent structure or society can emerge or even exist to order relations between them. In this an anarchic system, state power is very important, because only through this power states can defend themselves.
Institutionalism has many common aspects with Realism in term of international system— that it is anarchic, that countries are self-interested. However, Institutionalism leans on microeconomic theory and game theory to reach a fully different conclusion that cooperation between states is possible.
Liberalism has complex and less cohesive parts of theory than Realism or Institutionalism. The main point of the theory is that the national characteristics of individual States reason for their international relations. This view is quite different in comparison with both Realism and Institutionalism, in which all States have essentially the same ambitions.
Constructivism is not a theory, but rather ontology: complex of suggestions about the world and human motivation and agency. It has not similarities with Realism, Institutionalism, or Liberalism, but rather has common parts with Rationalism. By controverting the rationalist framework Constructivism creates constructivist alternatives in each of these types of theories.
Regionalism is one of the main features of the modern international system. We many talk about ‘East Asia’, ‘Europe’, and ‘Latin America’ as regional communities which are important parts of global society. In addition, it has been discussed that today people live in a world of regions, an international system characterized by communication between regions (Buzan and Waever 2003, Katzenstein 2005). Mostly regionalism focuses on economy, because economic regionalism is well known form in terms of international system. Representative examples of economic regionalism are European Union’s ‘Single Market’ and ‘euro zone’, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mercosur (South America), the South African Customs Union, the Gulf Co-operation Council (Middle East), ASEAN’s Free Trade Area, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.
Regionalism is a phenomenon spreading everywhere in the world and East Asia is no exception. Since 1997 East Asian countries: Japan, China, South Korea and the ten members of ASEAN have appeared positive about the trend. Actually ASEAN+3 forum that includes mentioned countries is accepted today. Japan plays one of the important roles in the context of ASEAN+3. In fact, East Asian regionalism cannot be existed without Japan. In the late 1980s the economies of East Asian countries improved a lot. Japan become interested and see in these countries as important markets as well as regional partners. In other words after economic growth of East Asian countries, named “East Asian Miracle” Japanese government recognized that East Asia countries are good trading partners rather than recipients of aid. Furthermore, the appearance of European regionalism, called “Fortress of Europe” affected Japan’s decision to form an Asia-Pacific regionalism. By the late 1980s, Japan had decided to reconstruct the concept of Asia-Pacific regionalism. In November 1989, in collaboration with Australia, Japan reached the establishment of APEC that included 12 countries such as Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Canada, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. APEC was the first official governmental organization in the Asia- Pacific part and it was based on the Japan’s idea of regionalism. Japan’s dream of formation Asia-Pacific region had at last become reality in 1989.
Asia-Pacific regionalism was emerged by the establishment of APEC in 1989. During this time another regional concept was created by Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir. The name of the concept was the East Asian Economic Group (EAEG) and later the East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC). The main aim of this regional concept was to remove Australian and American influence from the cooperation. Mohomad Mahathir wanted to organize a new regional community which can take the place of APEC. Japan was pessimistic about the future of EAEC, because the United States was excluded from it. In other words Japan thought that any Asia-Pacific institution cannot exist without American participation.
As I mentioned before Japan played an important role in formation of ASEAN+3 so the first step in evaluation of ASEAN+3 was done by Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto during round of visits to ASEAN country-participants such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, and Vietnam in January 1997. Although the main aim of visits was to develop relations between Japan and ASEAN countries, Prime Minister took the opportunity to speak about the holding regular Japan-ASEAN conferences. At first ASEAN did not reply to Japan’s suggestion. But then in April 1997, ASEAN organized a summit of the ASEAN members, Japan, South Korea, and China. Actually Japan did not even predict that ASEAN will answer to Hashimoto’s request. This summit passed very easy, because Japan and ASEAN had already had such kind of high level meetings before. It is not clear when Japan accepted in ASEAN’s proposals. But it is obvious that the Asian Monetary Crisis in 1997 played significant role in strengthening relation between Japan and ASEAN countries.
In conclusion I want to say that Japan was one of the driving forces which helped to spread East Asian regionalism over Asia-Pacific regionalism since the late 1990s. Japan’s most important contribution to ASEAN was financial support during Asian Monetary Crisis in 1997. This crisis was a turning point after which Japan began to take a part more actively in East Asia regionalism. According to the above-mentioned information we can surely say that Japan government did many efforts in order to create a regional community in East Asia despite the fact that Japan was influenced by the United States (for example situation related with EAEC). I think that the future of East Asian regionalism is unpredictable. If Japan wants to play a dominant role in East Asian regionalism, the government of Japan should open local markets. The future of East Asia mostly depends on Japan’s further activity.

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