In a recent WPR feature essay on economic integration and security competition in Asia, Amitav Acharya used our article in Foreign Policy, “A Tale of Two Asias,” as a conceptual framework for thinking about the future of this dynamic and important region. But his piece, “Why Two Asias May be Better Than None,” misunderstands or fails to address many of our key arguments.
On some points, we agree with Acharya. For example, he notes that Japan “started the process” of economic integration in Asia, or what we call “Economic Asia,” and “still plays a vital role in it.” We made precisely this point when we argued that “Tokyo has long been an exemplar of Economic Asia and a motive force behind the quest for greater regional economic integration.”
But this only reinforces our argument about the emergence of two increasingly irreconcilable Asias. Postwar Japan has incubated a variety of pan-Asian regional ideas and ideologies, especially with respect to Asian monetary integration. Still, if Japan truly privileged economic integration over nationalism and political competition, it would surely find ways to finesse the political tensions that have increasingly hindered its cooperation with South Korea.