Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:48 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:48 | SYDNEY

On the superiority of Asian multilateralism


Rory Medcalf


17 January 2008 14:36

There were harsh words about Europe today at a conference I am attending in Singapore on the prospects for Asian regional community and co-operation. At the Sentosa Roundtable on Asian Security, the eminent Kishore Mahbubani did not mince words in trying to turn the tables on the conventional wisdom that Europe is light years ahead of Asia in regional integration and political-security community building.

Europe, he said, had some little-acknowledged strategic weaknesses in its efforts to build a multinational identity and community via the EU.  For a start, it was a 'Christian club' which balked at accepting a moderate Muslim member, Turkey. Moreover it was 'geopolitically incompetent', failing to cope with problems in the Balkans, North Africa, Middle East and Caucasus, while having real and worsening trouble in its relations with Russia. The ASEAN-centred institutions of Asia, meanwhile, were 'multi-civilisational', geopolitically competent (reinforcing inter-state peace) and an ingredient in the region's extraordinary economic growth.
This analysis, while an interesting corrective to EU self-congratulation and condescension, strikes me as something of a caricature — and my little report here is no doubt a caricature too. But it is always nice to hear something provocative at a conference.