Analyzing the Efficacy of Regional Blocs and Agreements in the Asia-Pacific

Benjamin Rimland


Walk into any bookstore or newsstand and you will be overwhelmed with aphoristic headlines proclaiming the "arrival" of East Asia. Mass-market publications have captured audiences in recent years with prophetic and sensationalist stories covering the "rise" of China and the supposed decline of Japan. Yet, what all these bromides have to offer is merely a glimpse into a region that has churned through totalitarianism, colonialism and near-unfathomable economic success. With the development of a truly globalized world in the mid-1990s came a new ingredient to the mix: a jockeying for regional hegemony, with newly-open China challenging the long-standing power of Japan, perhaps the most Westernized of the East Asian nations. The historical tension between these nations was forged by millennia of attempted invasions and cultural exchange. These interactions boiled over in brutal conflict and occupation in the early twentieth century, a time period that now serves as the keystone of the bitter enmity between the two titans of Pacific politics. Today, both countries are economic partners, as China is Japan's largest trading partner, and Japan is China's largest source of imports. Yet, for all of the ballyhooed economic cooperation, there now exists a growing tension to achieve regional dominance: the ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and, on a more macro scale, dominance over the extremely lucrative oil, gas, and fishery deposits in the Pacific. This paper explores the schism between these key players in East Asia and its trajectory with known and proposed solutions in play.

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