Verena Blechinger, Jochen Legewie, eds. Facing Asia--Japan's Role in the Political and Economic Dynamism of Regional Cooperation. Munich: iudicium Verlag, 2000. 328 pp. (cloth), ISBN 978-3-89129-506-9.
Reviewed by Andreas Hippin (Business Writer, vwd newswire )
Published on H-US-Japan (September, 2000)
Readers will like this book because it is a compendium of different approaches towards regionalism and regional economic cooperation in East Asia. It is the result of a conference organized by the German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ), Tokyo, and has been compiled by DIJ staff members Verena Blechinger and Jochen Legewie. Considering the fact that the papers in this book have been prepared for a conference on a rather vague topic in 1998 -- "Regional Cooperation in Asia: Will Japan Stand Up to a Leadership Role" -the result is amazingly interesting, especially because the authors made the effort to update their papers.
There are papers on economic and political issues. Amongst the papers on economics the article of co-editor Jochen Legewie, "Driving Regional Integration: Japanese Firms and the Development of the ASEAN Automobile Industry," is the most remarkable. Legewie examines whether "Japanese dominance [has] helped or hindered the development of the Southeast Asian automobile industry until now, and how [...] this dominance [will] affect its further development" (p. 217). In his view "the assessment of the eventual outcome of the AFTA must not be overly optimistic for the short and medium term" (p. 241). Southeast Asian countries "silently supported the Japanese adverse position against a US driven liberalization movement regarded as pressure for the too fast opening of many of their sectors including the automobile industry", says Legewie (p. 242). In his view the Japanese manufacturers profit from a limited liberalization process because it allows them to maintain their current advantages over their competitors from Europe or the US.
Werner Pascha's paper on "Financial Cooperation and Integration in Pacific Asia: The Role of Multilateral and Regional Organizations" adds another flavour to the discussion in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Discussing whether regional cooperation in financial matters should play a growing role Pascha comes to the conclusion that "regional cooperation in finance is not only a regional matter" (p. 282). "The most basic reason is that in the financial markts multilateral interdependence is so strong that it is quite difficult to make the case for a regional approach", he argues (p. 281). Comparing East Asia with the situation in Europe and North America, Jesus P. Estanislao, who wrote a paper on "The Need for Stronger egional Financial Institutions in East Asia", comes to the conclusion that "In East Asia, there are ten economies that are faced with the financial crisis, and with no clear arrangements or fixed mechanisms even for consultation amongst themselves. The crisis has made it necessary that on financial and monetary issues, these ten economies should begin to consult with each other more regularly and frequently but consultation can and should lead towards cooperative initiatives" (p. 295).
Other papers on economics include Teofilo C. Daquila on "Japanese Economic Policy in Asia: An Asian Perspective", Tajima Shigeki on "The Effects of the Asian Crisis on Japan's Manufacturing Foreign Direct Investment in Asia" and Yamashita Shoichi on "The Role of Japanese Overseas Affiliates and Technology Transfer: Implications for Indonesia."
The papers on politics are quite different, with many revealing analytical weakness. In "Flirting with Regionalism: Japan's Foreign Policy Elites and the East Asian Economic Caucus," co-editor Verena Blechinger fails to differentiate clearly between the categories she introduced herself in order to show the different camps amongst Japan's foreign policy elites. The moderate position within the Asianist camp introduced on page 73 seems to have almost the same ideas as the "Globalists and Honest Brokers" introduced on page 77. It is also highly questionable to postulate that "the Japanese government has managed to practically implement East Asian regionalist concepts without their ideological framework" (p 69) after defining regionalism according to Benedict Anderson as an ideological concept (p 60).
In "Asian Expectations towards Japan's Role in the Consensual Process of Regional Integration," Kimura Michio decides to ignore the historical background for the difficulties Japanese leadership would have to face in North-East Asia. Instead he concentrates on traditionally Japan-friendly states like Malaysia. In a short round-up of the history of The East Asian Economic Group (EAEG) he reduces the concept of Asianism to an entirely Malaysian project within Mahathir's development strategy "Vision 2020".
Other papers on politics include Kent E. Calder on "Will Japan Play a Leadership Role in East Asian Regional Political and Economic Integration?", Glen D. Hook on "The Japanese Role in the Emerging Asia-Pacific Order: A ole for State and Non-State Actors?" and Hirono Ryokichi on "Changing Japanese Economic Policy toward East Asia in the Postwar Period". Dennis T. Yasutomo does a splendid job in "Japan's Multilateral Assistance Leadership: Momentum or Malaise?," which offers, within a few lines, a great summary of the role of Japanese NGOs.
While fashionable topics like NGOs and the fabulous civil society are thoroughly covered there is no paper on what some may argue is the most important aspect of Japanese foreign policy: the relationship between Japan and the US. And no paper discusses Sino-Japanese relations. Nevertheless the book is indispensable for all who'd like to know more about the current discussion of regionalism in East Asia. The decision to publish the book in English might bring some more attention to the research of German social scientists focused on Japan.
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Andreas Hippin. Review of Blechinger, Verena; Legewie, Jochen, eds., Facing Asia--Japan's Role in the Political and Economic Dynamism of Regional Cooperation.
H-US-Japan, H-Net Reviews.
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