November 7, 2009
Until recently, we were used to hearing neo-conservative pundits peddle the idea that the 21st century will see a renewal of American hegemonism over world affairs. The “new American century” has fizzled out amid botched military interventions, lacklustre economic performance in the States and repeated stockmarket scandals that affected the economic stability of the whole world economy.
If last century’s greatest success story was the creation, out of the ashes of two devastating wars, of the European Union, this time around the most important developments – economic, political and strategic – come from Asia. In this part of the world, countries like China, South Korea, Japan and members of ASEAN are busy planning the creation of the world’s biggest trade bloc. The Asian Community, spurred into being by two huge financial crises, will be emulating the European Union’s successful integration model.
The existence of a working model like the European Union makes the task of integrating the Asian economies mentioned above somewhat easier. Consequently, we should expect Asian integration to happen in a shorter time frame, possibly no more than three decades. The bloc’s economic might in aggregate GDP terms will be comparable to that of the EU’s or NAFTA’s.
The current preoccupation of ASEAN countries with the creation of institutions able to police human rights within the bloc seems to indicate that economic integration will be followed by plans to put in place common institutions, to adopt a single currency and eventually follow the European path towards closer political, and even military, integration.
Taken together, all these developments make the 21st century an Asian century, effectively bringing to an end America’s leadership in world affairs. In the vacuum created by the disappearance of the bi-polar world, two more superpowers will ensure, alongside the United States, global peace and stability in the future: the European Union and the Asian Community.Florian Pantazi