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East Asian Regionalism Notes

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This is an extract of our East Asian Regionalism document, which we sell as part of our East Asian Transformations (Political Economy) Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Warwick students.

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*Link - 1.7 The East Asian Miracle & Asian Values / 1.10 Underdevelopment in CLMV / 2.2 Production Networks

East Asian Regionalism
◦ To what extent can East Asia be considered a 'region'?

Discuss and assess if ASEAN regionalization can/should be compared to the experience of the EU.

To what extent can the European model of regional integration be transplanted to East Asia?

Does ASEAN have an identity problem? If not, explain why not. If so, will this pose a problem for further regional integration? [2018]

What was the 1985 Plaza Accord, and how important was it for trade and economic development in the East Asia region? [2017]

What is 'regionalism'? Does it promote trade integration in East Asia? [2016, 2015]

In what ways has East Asian industrial development affected the process of 'regionalization' as distinct from 'regionalism'? [2016, 2015]


1. What are the causes and consequences?

2. What does this tell us about:

i. East Asian development ii.


iii. The main regional actors, and how they interact?

iv. Underlying assumptions?

Nearly two decades after the end of the Cold War, scholars are still perplexed by the complex geopolitical realities that emerged in its wake. The fundamental question remains: Will the new world order be shaped primarily by state,
regional or global forces and actors?

Can refer to a geographical space; economic interaction, institutional or governmental jurisdiction, or shared socio-cultural affinities.
◦ Region is a 'rubbery concept' stretching above and below the administrative boundaries of states.

Without a firm understanding of what constitutes a 'region', it becomes harder to analyse what regional integration is, as well as its desirability and achievability. It's also harder to identify the relation between the development of East Asia as a region, and the development of the East Asia of the regions.

'The underlying question is whether EA should be defined geographically (with accompanying criteria of historical experience, common values or civilizational perspectives) or functionally, based on contemporary interactions and interests' [Evans].

Regional identity

Benedict Anderson's notion of nations as 'imagined communities' also applies to regions as there is no such thing as a 'natural region'. All regions are socially constructed and politically contested, and must be constantly (re)negotiated through a process of regionalism to maintain its political expediency.

The 'ASEAN Way' (& 'Asian Values' discourse*) serves as an established/distinctive repository of cooperative norms - or 'cognitive prior' [Acharya] - that enables regional institutions to 'socialize' their members into distinctive patterns of interaction  fosters a sense of regional Self/Other.

Although regionalism is manifested in different forms in different regions, it generally refers to…

A spontaneous, bottom-up process of economic integration, expressed by *Link - 1.7 The East Asian Miracle & Asian Values / 1.10 Underdevelopment in CLMV / 2.2 Production Networks

A self-conscious, collaborative effort to create preferential trade agreements (FTAs) that express a particular identity and shape cohesive stances on issues like migration, climate change and resource management within a geographical region.

A top-down process led by governments.

'A strategy pursued by a state that desires to enhance the governability of its national economy when market authority outgrows state authority' [Mi-Kyung Kim]

increasing cross-border flows of capital, goods and people within a geographical region - i.e. a single market.

Derives its primary motive force from markets, private trade and investment flows by non-governmental economic actors (firms or individuals)

Globalization - the internationalization of production*, capital flows and markets; the expansion of multilateral trading systems (e.g. WTO); and the diffusion of culture towards 'a single borderless world' [Scholte, 1997]
Reasons for the rise of 'New Regionalism' in the late 1980s:

1. End of the Cold War & confrontational alliance politics

2. Relative decline of US hegemony & the emergence of new major players (e.g. EU, Japan, China)

Several factors unique to the Asia-Pacific gave 'new regionalism' particular momentum there…

3. The defusing of ideological partitions in the region
◦ Achieved through the inclusion of socialist CLMV countries in the (hitherto capitalist) ASEAN bloc

4. The growth of regional production networks* following the 1985 Plaza Accord* and China's 'open-door'
economic reforms.

5. Changing domestic political settlements, with 'liberal reformers' gaining popularity against economic nationalists.

6. A region-wide recession in the mid-1980s, followed by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98, led governments to see regional integration as necessary for protecting Asia's economic dynamism.

These events sparked two concurrent forceful tendencies: multilateralism and 'new regionalism' [Hettne, 2005]
Do regional trading agreements undermine the development of a (post-hegemonic) global economy/order characterized by multilateral trading systems?

Encourages specialization which can lead to economies of scale as countries focus on
'perfecting'/increasing the production of goods they have comparative advantage in.
◦ Increase in output = increase in employment as labour is in derived demand.
The removal of custom tariffs and lower servicelink costs (due to geographical proximity) leads to trade creation; where high-cost domestically produced goods are substituted for lower-cost imports within the trade bloc.

Regionally-based training, R&D, infrastructure and government procurement helps national economies/
firms become more competitive in the global market.
◦ Provision of fiscal relief enables poorer members to contribute more effectively to the economy.

Function as 'fortresses' against the pressures and instabilities of intensified global competition.

'The world trading system is currently in danger of entering the zone of excessive regionalization'
[Stein & Wei, 1998]
Trade diversion - occurs when tariff agreements/
FTAs cause imports to shift from low-cost nonmember countries (with high comparative advantage), to higher-cost members (with lower comparative advantage).
◦ Reduced consumer surplus;

May provoke zero-sum conflicts between closed regional blocs.Trade wars - a side effect of protectionism where international trade is restricted to insulate local businesses/jobs from foreign competition, or right trade deficits
(imports > exports)US-China trade war
Since January 2018, China and the
US have been embroiled in a trade

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