Volume 73, Issue 2 p-267-268
ASEM, The Asia-Europe
Meeting: A window of opportunity. Edited by Wim Stokhof and Paul van
der Velde. New York: Columbia University Press. 1999. 179 pp. US$ 76.50,
cloth. ISBN 0-7103-0622-9.
This text is a much welcomed addition to the literature on Europe-Asia relations
and is the first to my knowledge to be specifically focused on the Asia-
Europe Meetings (ASEM), the relatively new "dialogue framework" established
between the European Union and ten East Asian states (ASEAN- Japan, China
and South Korea). The birth of ASEM was widely perceived as a response to
deepening transpacific and transatlantic partnerships in the New post-Cold
War calculus of "triadic (i.e., North America, Europe, East Asia) relations.
Hence, ASEM provided the remaining link of this inter-regional triangle.
However, as the recent East Asian financial crisis revealed, ASEM had broadly
failed to move beyond its largely symbolic value by the millennial eve.
The text's main focus on the various potential opportunities open to ASEM
to help it cross this Rubicon will therefore be warmly received by many.
The text is based around
a collection of reworked versions of speeches and papers presented at a
Wilton Park Conference held in September 1997 entitled "The Europe-Asia
Relationship: How Could It Be Improved?" It has been written by a mixture
of Asian and European academics and politicians who have been directly involved
in some way in ASEM's development. Chapter themes comprise the progression
of ASEM's biennial summit agendas, ASEM as a catalyst for strengthening
Euro-Asian relations, the political dialogue of ASEM, enhancing inter-regional
community contact Asia-East Europe relations, ASEM and the global information
society, Asia Europe security co-operation, ASEM's role in combatting international
corruption, developing the Asia-Europe business relationship, an assessment
of China's impact on Asia-EU Relations and a consideration of the future
Although there is valuable
political insight offered by the text, the relative paucity of academic
authors denies the reader of substantive analytical rigour on many of the
aspects covered. The introductory chapter is essentially composed of abstract-style
summaries of chapters that follow. While this offers a good overview of
the book's content and central arguments, the chapter could have additionally
set out a broader contextual background to ASEM (e.g. its origins and development)
and thus helped to avoid some c subsequent repetition that symposium-based
texts are especially prone to The text's thematic structure offers an interesting
but also a rather disparate set of topics for discussion. It is a pity that
relatively little comment is made on ASEM's economic dimension, which has
always been its most salient feature. An opportunity was presented here
in the "business relationship chapter but unfortunately not taken. More
analysis on ASEM's broader global and international political economy contexts
would have also benefited the text. Moreover, a chapter on Japan's views
towards ASEM - which up to now has been generally ambivalent for certain
geopolitical reasons - could have been an interesting companion to the "China
and ASEM" chapter.
The final chapter on
ASEM's future offers some useful points and developed arguments but barely
touches on the impact of the East Asian financial crisis, like most preceding
chapters. This is indicative of the fact that the text's analysis generally
appears to end at autumn 1997, which unfortunate. Overall, while the text
does exhibit some significant weaknesses it will nevertheless be particularly
welcomed by those scholars working in the still much neglected field of
contemporary Europe-Asia relations.
of Hull, United Kingdom