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Pacific Affairs Volume 73, Issue 2 p-267-268

Christopher M.Dent

Book Reviews

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 ASEM process.

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.

 

University of Hull, United Kingdom

Christopher M.Dent