Development and prosperity tend to bring fulfillment and interdependence among states in the region. East Asia has been distinctive in the global development as it has become one of the critical regions in the world. The new millennium has brought about the information revolution, globalization, and growth of interdependence among East Asian states, as well as new opportunities and barriers to regional cooperation. East Asian regionalism faced many challenges due to historical differences that exist between the states. However, because of globalization and the dynamics of the present-day market, most of the states have set their historical differences aside and opted to cooperate. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was the first form of cooperation in the region as a political brand that aimed at tackling the security issues during the cold war. With the end of the war, it has grown to involve other members and to attain common economic goals while increasing the competitiveness of the ASEAN states so as to have a bargaining power in the global market. This essay aims to discuss cooperation in the East Asia as a result of increased development and prosperity.
Trade and Economic Sector
The 1997 Asian financial crisis has become a catalyst for enhancing cooperation in the region. It brought a reawakening in the area, making the member states realize that regional cooperation is not only essential need in the era of globalization, but also a tool with the help of which member states can increase their strengths in the international market. ASEAN facilitated creation of other platforms for cooperation, such as the 10+3, which has seen integration of the Republic of North Korea, Japan, and China. The region has shown improvement in terms of trade and economic aspects over the years. For instance, according to the report from the World Bank, intra-trade in the East Asia was approximately 45% of the total volume of trade in the region in 1992 and in 2007, it was recorded at 52%. According to Liu, the region has also shown some improvement on the global level, with the market share of the East Asia region rising from 6% in 1992 to almost 18% in 2012.
In the 1990s, there were no established free trades in the area, but by 2012, some free trades had been organized. These included ASEAN-Japan, ASEAN-China, ASEAN-Korea, ASEAN- Australia-Zealand and ASEAN-India trades. This cooperation benefited over 3.5 billion people regionally. With the development and prosperity in the region due to interaction, East Asia produced eight out of 45 top economies globally, and five of them were ASEAN countries. The lesson learned in 1997 enabled the region to fight the 2008 financial crisis, which was witnessed internationally. Additionally, the launching of the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) by ASEAN, Japan, the Republic of Korea and China grew into a multilateral mechanism having $120 billion reserve pool of foreign exchange. It has an additional Credit Guarantee and Investment Facility (CGIF) with about $700 billion for the region. This cooperative initiative was crucial in ensuring both financial and economic stability of the East Asian region.
Development brings about not only benefits but also threats as well as new and more advanced security concerns. Therefore, countries of the region have to cooperate to ensure that their various resources are used to curb the threats, such as pirate attacks in their water and terrorism, and thus safeguard their development. Economic cooperation in the region increased development and prosperity and led to a convergence of interest of various parties, thus bringing regional states closer in regard to security matters. Stability in the region has been maintained as peace prevailed for quite some time in East Asia. Thus, there has been no full-scale war since the Vietnam-Korean war, which was witnessed in the Cold War period. It is evident that regional issues have been managed primarily through Six-Party Talks on the issue of nuclear arms in the Korean Peninsula. These talks have created a platform that eased tension and advanced denuclearization efforts in the region. Increased development among East Asia states inspired mutual respect among countries and made them resort to peaceful and diplomatic ways of resolving conflicts in the region.
Cooperation in non-traditional security has been successful in many aspects of the common fight against pirates in the Malacca Strait and the war on terrorism. With the development and prosperity, the states have been in a position to assist disaster-stricken countries, which they did after the tsunami and earthquake disasters in Japan and the incident of Wenchuan Earthquake in China. According to Liu, these efforts had shown that with the advancement in development, cooperation has also been enhanced in the region. Thus, in December 2011, Myanmar, China, Thailand and Laos launched a unified patrol within the Mekong River.
Cooperation in Institutional Building
There has been a tremendous achievement in the institutional building with increased development and prosperity. ASEAN was the only regional institution that had been established in the East Asia towards the end of the Cold War. In two decades, East Asia managed to enhance cooperation, and now it uses a concentric circles structure, each of which has its focus but ASEAN remains the focal point of intersection. In practice, it has been evident through the 10+3 cooperation, which was established in 1997. Through the cooperation, the region has witnessed over 50 dialogue mechanisms covering over 20 sectors including trade, finance, economy, science and technology, culture and connectivity. Besides, the three 10+1 mechanism worked to enhance the 10+3 mechanism of cooperation.
In 2005, the launching of the East Asia Summit (EAS) can be considered another milestone in the cooperation witnessed in East Asia. It is an extension of 10+3 membership, where other countries such as India, New Zealand, and Australia were included. The other outsiders that joined later in the year 2010 are the United States and Russia. It is a forum that has spearheaded advancement in political and economic issues of the region. ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which was founded in 1994, has attracted even a greater membership, meaning that cooperation has increased, and turned into a broad-based group. Apart from the EAS members, the association has incorporated East Timor, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, the European Union and Canada.
Parallel trans-regional and sub-regional cooperation was realized among regional leaders, with the Republic of Korea, Japan, and China being involved in trilateral meetings supported by working levels, ministerial and senior officials meeting mechanisms. This cooperation resulted in launching of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2012. In 1992, the Asian Development Bank established Greater Mekong Sub-regional (GMS) Cooperation, which at first covered six countries only but with the development of the region, it involved more areas. Its practical assistance involved various sectors, including telecommunications, transportation, tourism, energy, trade, environment protection, investment and human resource development. These are just some operational institutions that have been created due to increased growth and prosperity in the region.
China as an Active Advocate of East Asia Cooperation
In 1992, China established relations with the ASEAN. Thus, China can be considered as the earliest active advocate of cooperation in the region. Over the past 20 years, with a continuous increase in the development in the area, the joint efforts of ASEAN and China have been extraordinary. The state has overcome the barrier of mistrust and instead focused on the use of dialogue in advancing confidence, which has led to the establishment of partnership in peace-building and pursuit of economic prosperity.
China is considered to be the initiator of most of the cooperation unions that have been established in East Asia. Some facts reveal that it has all along championed for integration. Thus, it was the first to support the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in Southeast Asia. Secondly, it initiated a partnership with ASEAN. Besides, it was among the pioneers of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and launched FTA with ASEAN.
With increased economic development and prosperity, cooperation between China and ASEAN continued to deepen further. For example, in 1991, only $7 billion was traded between ASEAN and China compared to $362.8 billion in 2011, which has shown an approximate annual increase of 20%. It was due to the stability of the China's currency, during the financial crisis in Asia in 1997, ASEAN countries assisted China in overcoming the difficulties through cooperation. Since the establishment of FTA between ASEAN and China, ASEAN has been the largest trading partner of China for three years in a row, making it the top business partner of China.
China has been active in the security matters of the region, where it has already signed a non-traditional security cooperation agreement that covers broader areas. It includes infectious diseases protection and prevention, disaster relief, counter-terrorism, defense as well as peacekeeping. China has been also involved in other multilateral and bilateral security dialogues. It has also managed to be a great regional player as a member of the trilateral cooperation with both Japan and the Republic of Korea. Japan has been its major trade partner for the past three years while its business agreement with the Republic of Korea has existed for many years.
To conclude, increased development and prosperity will lead to cooperation among East Asia states. This regional integration has already been witnessed through various sectors, and as deduced, it will increase further because globalization has created competition among regions. To achieve competitive strength in trade and economic prosperity with the rest of the world, East Asian states will find more reasons to cooperate rather than compete with one another. Security has been a big concern in the history of the region, but development has brought the states together and even enhanced cooperation in dealing with modern threats, such as terrorism. Regional institutions have been created and strengthened. Since the establishment of ASEAN at the end of the Cold War, more economical systems have been established to promote development in various sectors of the economy in the region. Finally, it is evident that China is the economic power in the area, and even with its increased prosperity, it has been at the forefront in enhancing cooperation in the area. This trend has, therefore, shown that the region will proceed to cooperate so as to safeguard their common interests in the global market.