In discussions of the ‘two great galaxies’ of global governance – the formal Bretton Woods –UN system and the newer and informal Gx system, I have used ‘jumble’ to express the state and architecture of global governance.  This bilateral, multilateral, 'minilateral' ‘stew’ is most notable in Asia where US efforts to build bilateral alliances have now been joined by efforts to build multilateral regional institutions in both the economic and in the political security arena.

In a recent special section in GlobalAsia, (Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 2010) G. John Ikenberry our colleague from Princeton University has guest edited a series of essays on the East Asian security architecture.  The views include, among others, Beida’s Wang Yizhou, Hitoshi Tanaka from the Japan Center for International Exchange, Cho Hyun, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea, Susan Shirk, from the University of California at San Diego and the Director of the University of California system-wide Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and Kishore Mahbubani the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Now this is the second opportunity to comment on an article from GlobalAsia.  Those of you who read this blog regularly will remember that I commented on a piece by Jia Qingguo from Beida and Richard Rosecrance from Harvard’s Belfer Center that examined the Power Transformation rivalry between China and the United States (see, “The Changing Landscape of Global Relations – The ‘new’ Context of International Relations” Sunday, February 14, 2010).  GlobalAsia is a product of the East Asia Foundation founded in Seoul in January 2005 with Chung-in Moon as the editor-in-chief and managing editor David Plott of the Journal.  With the objective of giving a wide voice to the, “global dimensions of what is happening in Asia,” it is a journal officials, experts and opinion makers should pay some attention to.

Now for Rising BRICSAM there is continued interest in understanding the dynamics and architecture of Asia.  It is about the new G20 Asian members – China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea and Australia.  It is about understanding the crossroads of the great powers in this region – India, Russia, China, Japan and the United States and it is about understanding the evolution of ASEAN - that minilateral architecture at the heart of Asia.

So back for a brief moment to these articles on the security in East Asia.  The review of the security waterfront is helpful though surprisingly Ikenberry ignores the APc – the Asia-Pacific community idea promoted now for some period by Australia’s Prime Minister Rudd (See my blog post, “Community versus community?”, December 1, 2009).  Whatever the scope and merit of this APc idea, it is certainly about security and creating a multilateral security institution that can match - likely better - APEC.  While the idea is contentious and there was much displeasure from the ASEAN participants to an Australian meeting on the subject, it is an initiative that directly focuses on the gaps in Asian security collaboration - at least among the powers in Asia – especially the United States and China.

Now that being said, Hitoshi Tanaka has posited a different multilateral security framework that he identifies as the East Asia Security Forum (EASF) which in his mind should restrict itself to ASEAN + 6 (China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India) plus the US.  

And while the jumble is significant enough in the security dimension it is even more evident in the economic arena.  Given the focus on security, however, there was little that was examined on the economic jumble though it is evident that there is a significant possible overlap between the economic organizations and the new political security organizations.  

But the key to addressing the security architecture in Asia is ultimately around the United States and its willingness to acknowledge that regional multilateralism is not, as Susan Shirk identifies, simply a way for China, “to reduce American influence and eventually push it out of the region.”  The openness of the US Administration to sign on to ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) is a small sign that there may be new thinking in Washington over the Asian jumble.

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