of politics and history, vol. 46 (2000) issue 3 p 455-456
Michael D. Barr
ASEM: A Window of
Opportunity. By Wim Stokhof and Paul van der Velde eds (London: Kegan
Paul International in association with the International Institute for Asian
Studies, 1999), 179 pp. Hardcover £55.00.
The conference from which this book was derived brought together academics
and politicians from Europe and Asia to talk about the forthcoming (as it
was then) 1998 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM II). The result has been a collection
of eleven papers about doing business between Asia and Europe.
Although the quality
of the contributions varied considerably I found many aspects of the book
educative. The de facto debate on the role of cultural awareness in international
business was worth reading, as was the piece on corruption in Japan. The
British Labour politician's description of politicians as spokespersons
and apologists for big business was particularly illuminating, especially
since this was not intended as a criticism of his peers. This was part of
a slightly broader debate over the relationship between politics and economics,
much of which was a coded discussion on the correct response of Europeans
doing business with regimes that abuse human rights. One chapter was effectively
a guided tour of websites that might be useful to people doing business
between the two continents.
I thought the most substantial
academic contribution came from Zhao Gancheng, a Chinese academic who was
arguing his nation's case for the PRC's admission to the World Trade Organisation
despite its record on human rights. The PRC appears to have put many of
its top people into this field during the 1990s.
Unfortunately the book
suffers some significant defects. The conference on which it is based was
held in September 1997: slightly too late to acknowledge, let alone deal
with, the Asian financial crisis which in fact dominated the proceedings
of ASEM II. Yet all of the papers still speak of ASEM II in the future tense,
giving the book a slightly surreal edge. Nevertheless, the book could have
been improved with a little editorial work. An index would have been nice,
but it is particularly galling that the editors did not include a list of
ASEM Members, since the question of ASEM membership and the criteria for
admitting new members was a major point of consideration in several papers.
Community and Cross-Cultural Studies, Queensland University of Technology