Thursday 07 Oct 2021 | 21:09 | SYDNEY
Thursday 07 Oct 2021 | 21:09 | SYDNEY

East Asia many odd men out


Malcolm Cook

22 December 2009 08:00

Joel Rathus' piquant response to my latest post got me thinking beyond my regular concern that ASEAN voices demand centrality and then ask others to fund it. East Asia, if one could ever actually define this term, seems to have almost as many 'odd men out' as it does in.

Joel nominates Japan, the region's largest economy (in market exchange rate terms), investor and aid giver as one rather large odd man along with the Oceania pair, Australia and New Zealand. To this list of supposed outcasts, one can add the hefty and rising India (in the East Asia Summit and a supporter of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia [ERIA], owner of the Andaman islands, powerful civilizational force, over 1 billion people), the city-state of Singapore (in but not of South East Asia), alienated Taiwan (with a population larger than Australia), ignored Mongolia and the pariahs, Myanmar and the DPRK.

Then there is the whole question of whether the only global superpower, the US, is in or out. And if out, how far out? We also have the torturous membership question of continent-spanning Russia. And, of course, there is the region's newest state, Timor Leste, as well as PNG (a country that shares an island with Indonesia). Hmmm, maybe PNG, geographically speaking, has a better claim to being 'East Asian' than we do?

Who are the 'in men' left? the remaining eight ASEANs, South Korea and the PRC?

Given this conceptual mess, one that is greater than the alphabet soup of institutions it has spawned, I still think it is a good investment by Australia to put $1 million into ERIA to fund research into regional economic integration, especially given the long history of Australia-Japan cooperation in this area and the competing push for an East Asian Free Trade Agreement that excludes Australia, New Zealand and India.

Photo by Flickr user David Wulff, used under a Creative Commons license.