Maaike and Frans-Paul look at recent EU moves and observe that “the EU is not afraid to criticise the major Asian powers when it perceives their actions to be harmful to East Asia’s regional stability… [and] the EU is not taking sides with Japan against China or vice versa”.
Gradually and without attracting much attention the European Union is building a strategy on East Asian security affairs that is more focused and ambitious than it has ever been. Even without a military presence in the region the EU can make a difference. The challenge now is for Brussels to keep up its engagement, develop an independent voice and to uphold a long-term commitment to strengthening stability in the region. Asian governments have not hidden their disappointment with the EU about its rather half-hearted approach in the past decades, but may well be willing to give the EU a second chance – one that should not be wasted.
Following up on a previous post about the European contribution to the Asian arms race (and shifts in the military balance in the Asia-Pacific), readers may find this Reuters study by David Lague of interest:
Sibling blog anglojapanalliance.com draws attention to a letter from China’s Ambassador in London to the Telegraph newspaper, which links China’s dispute with Japan in the East China Sea to the theme of Japan’s war record and PM Abe’s position on WWII and recent visit to Yasukuni shrine. Interesting to watch if and how London reacts.
“in the court of public opinion (at least, as far as it is reflected in the mainstream media), sympathy seems to lie largely with Japan”
What is interesting is that this is coming less from any legal or normative position on the dispute itself, and much more from a comparison of the domestic treatment of the issue in China and Japan. The violence seen in the public response in China has generated sympathy for Japan.
Yes, ASEAN failed to agree a communique at its last meeting in Phnom Penh, but don’t let that eclipse a significant event for Europe-Asia security relations – the first EU-US dialogue on Asia-Pacific issues. This resulted in a joint statement listing ‘common objectives’, including in the field of peace and security.
And what about that visit to China? Back to that later. In the 12 July 2012 ASEAN statement, High Representative Ashton and Secretary Clinton welcomed –
1) progress being made in regional cooperation and integration in the Asia-Pacific.
2) the central role played by ASEAN and its promotion of wider regional fora, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit.
3) an active and constructive role for China in the Asia-Pacific Region.
Three historic shifts are transforming the global security environment. There is an economic shift of wealth generation and finance from West to East, the climate shift to higher temperatures and sea levels, and a geopolitical shift to a multi-polar world order. All of them will bring about changes that cause Europe and Asia’s security interests to overlap to an extent not seen since the onset of the Cold War period.
First the economic shift: Asia is fast becoming the most important part of the world for Europe’s economic interest. In a recent round-table hosted by FRIDE and the EU-Asia Centre, the European Union External Action Service’s (EEAS) Director for Northeast Asia,Gerhard Sabathil, pointed out that the EU’s trade with East Asia (28%) now exceeds transatlantic trade (23%). If Asia has a security sneeze, Europe will catch a cold in its export trade with big knock-on effects for the rest of its economy. Then there is the importance of Asian finance power for our public and private debt and investment. But this economic shift is only the most obvious reason we should be more attentive to what happens ‘over there’. Continue reading →
Here is a fascinating discussion between Author Robert Kaplan and STRATFOR founder and CEO George Friedman about the directions of China’s naval build-up and where it is going.
The discussion is mainly pitched at what this means for the USA, but around minute 27 there is an interesting moment when Kaplan tracks the famous ‘string of pearls’ from Burma via Sri Lanka to Gwadar and the Gulf, and continues to point out that China ‘is also building ports in Greece and Croatia in the Eastern Mediterranean’.
Their different views are illuminating. Kaplan is more alarmed, especially about what this means for the USA. This is because he mostly looks at what happens if you extrapolate from China’s recent trajectory of growth and assertiveness. Friedman puts it into a wider context and draws attention to the precariousness of China’s economy and its dependence on the health of foreign consumer markets like Europe. He forecasts that China is headed for a pause, at best, or maybe a contraction, which will potentially slow its expansionary capability. But he is also warning that it is this economic vulnerability, among other factors, makes China ‘unpredictable and insecure’.
There is an interesting change of tone in the closing minutes when Friedman talks about the significance of Japan in all this. Kaplan seems to parry with a comment on Japan’s ’emasculated’ political class, but Friedman comes back with a point you feel he has given some thought to – ‘its political class can be replaced’. It would be a chilling phrase out of context, but his unmistakable admiration for Japan shines through and just bathes it with warmth. He goes on to list Japan’s notable advantages (implicit comparison with what he just said about China’s present and forthcoming challenges) and stresses its record of making rapid adjustments when needed.