Interregional Linkages in a Changing Global System
Edited by Peter W. Preston and Julie Gilson
Chapter 2: The cultural politics of contemporary Asia-Europe relations
Stephanie Lawson INTRODUCTION The rise of Asia is dramatically changing the world balance of economic power. The World Bank estimates that half the growth in the global economy will ensure that, by the year 2000, one billion Asians will have significant consumer spending power and, of these, 400 million will have average disposable incomes as high, if not higher, than their European or US contemporaries.1 This statement, contained in a report commissioned by the European Union (EU) in 1994, demonstrates a focus fixed squarely on Europe’s economic future in the Asian region. Since then, a fomalization of Asia-Europe relations has emerged in the form of an Asia-Europe Meeting process (ASEM), first convened in Bangkok in 1996. ASEM involves all member countries of the EU on the one side, and Asian countries from Burma through to Japan on the other. The original idea for the Bangkok summit had been hatched by the Singaporean Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, in October 1994 - barely three months after the release, in July, of the EU Commission’s report - and it is partly through Singapore’s activism that the other ASEAN countries and, subsequently, the leading East Asian nations of Japan, China and South Korea were drawn behind the project.2 Just as notable are the countries excluded from the process: in Europe, all non-EU members have been left out and ‘Asia’ does not include the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh nor, on the other side of the region, Australia and...
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