Thursday 11 Aug 2022 | 06:01 | SYDNEY
Thursday 11 Aug 2022 | 06:01 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Europe and Asia compared


Rory Medcalf


6 June 2008 16:06

Hans van Leeuwen writes:

On the uncertain prospects for East Asian multilateralism, Rory Medcalf writes: 'Many features of the region work against such solidarity. It has diverse cultures, political systems and levels of development. It is divided by unresolved historical grievances, territorial disputes, strategic competition and mistrust – not to mention a lack of agreement on where the region begins and ends.' I hope it's not stating the obvious to say that this was formerly true of Europe in every particular. Maybe what Europe had, and what Asia appears to lack, is a core group of countries — including some with a bit of diplomatic and economic heft — that have the will (and the objective strategic motivation) to start working against the odds.

I agree. For Europe, that core formed around France and (West) Germany, their violent strategic rivalry entirely shattered and spent after two total wars, and their influence overshadowed by the greater powers of the US and USSR. Despite the devastation World War II wrought on Asia, nationalist rivalries are still alive and well in the region. That doesn’t mean that it will take another major war or two for China-Japan (or indeed China-India) relations to settle into something involving a bit of shared sovereignty, and I certainly hope it doesn’t. But what then will bring them together?