Perhaps the most important two meetings of this year have just wrapped up.
The first was China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs – also more importantly State Councillor – Wang Yi’s visit to Japan, which reopened the possibility of a broad realignment of the two nations. The two nations need a new basis for cooperating in Asia and not having conflicting interests beyond.
The second was the major summit between President Xi and Prime Minister Modi. They were also discussing how the two countries accounting for almost half the world’s population would cooperate in building a new Asia, managing their own bilateral relationship and interests in the process.
There are many initiatives in play, especially BRI and a new grouping of free trade areas in Asia, possibly extending to the Pacific and Europe.
But the first issue to be addressed, and out of the public eye, is what form might the continent of Asia take? Asian nations seem to welcome the example of the economic opening up of Europe, but seem uneasy about monetary, fiscal and political union that it is headed towards. Of course, Europe has the reality of two horrendous world wars to think through. 100 million dead in the first half of the 20th century. That does call for a different and unique response. The concern about the history of the Soviet Union also encourages European leaders to consider more integrated responses.
But the economic development of Europe is of great interest. Also the transnationalisation of transportation has made a big impact in Europe. This is reflected in the transnational infrastructure essence of BRI for Asia.
So what form of Asian grouping might enable a more integrated approach to forming an Asian Economic block which focused on economic development and social and political stability?
Maybe it is handled through relations between states in varying ways while the big nations – China, India and Japan – keep close working relations and iron out tensions of development.
Or it could be leading inexorably to a meeting of the nations of Asia. Or both.
The North American continent, led by the USA, and Europe, have a strong interest in the outcomes. Africa would also experience a big effect. The Middle East might need to consider the global impacts on them.
Is Asia moving towards a new identity, building upon the Chiang Mai Accords of 2000, formalised in 2010 and expanded in 2012.
This was a financial structure to protect Asean, China, Japan and South Korea from Soros type currency attacks. A stabilisation fund. The sort of fund which operates as an alternative to all the features of a single currency.
The conflicts of Asia are expressed through Kashmir, Taiwan and the many sensitive areas of islands and borders and resource sharing. Religious tensions are also evident, some with global implications.
We should presume that China and other major Asian nations are considering how to address those to enable development to be maintained. And therein lies the possibility of engaging American involvement with the Europeans as well. As open investors.
North America, Europe and Asia need to determine how they will be open to each other. But first each has to decide their own form. It is certain that India, China and Japan are all thinking about the form Asia might take and how that protects their own national interests whilst enabling continued sustainable development . They are the Germany, France and UK of Europe.