In an article published in the Winter 1993-94 issue of International Security, Aaron Friedberg, a professor at Princeton University, contrasted Europe's "thick alphabet soup" of institutions with Asia's "thin gruel." Some two decades later, no one would now describe Asia's institutional landscape as a thin gruel. But are the existing institutions mere talk-shops, or are they genuine forces for stability and security?
Regional Integration in Asia
Asia is increasingly taking its place in a "world of regions," with economic integration having accelerated since the financial crisis of 1997-98. But the pace of regional political integration lags behind, in part due to a crowded and confusing institutional field, and in part due to questions raised by shifting balances of power. The way forward will both depend on and determine the geopolitical landscape, within the region and beyond.
Articles in this feature
Asia's lack of progress toward regional political integration is at first glance surprising, given that it has such a good model of successful political integration based on multilateral institution-building -- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But if visions of robust Asia-wide multilateral institutions on the ASEAN model have failed to materialize, it is because they have failed to mesh with the shifting foundations of Asia's underlying strategic order.
East Asia has achieved one of the most profound economic transformations in recorded history, becoming the new workshop of the world, the location of fast-emerging markets, and a new financial power in the making. But some degree of confusion as well as tension within the region remains, especially with regard to which regional body should be the key driver of East Asian regional community-building.