Regional integration has become an irresistible trend in East Asia's development, mainly in the field of economic cooperation, which has served as a catalyst for stability in the region.
The "10-3" process (Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) in East Asia further continues. The new "East Asia Identity" has been filtering swiftly.
Promoting and negotiating the establishment of the Free Trade Area (FTA) has become a sizzling topic amid most of the countries in the region. An East Asian FTA network based on bilateral exchanges is being formed.
The regional politics of East Asia may be the most complicated international situation in the world.
Though there is cooperation in the aforementioned fields, there exist at the same time some negative factors that could have impacts upon the long-term regional future.
East Asia's international politics are featured with territorial disputes, competition for economic resources, rise of over-irrational nationalism and inter-action of balance-of-power geopolitics.
Cold War legacies
There are also the Cold War legacies such as the nuclear issue between Washington-Pyongyang and the possibility of the so-called "new Cold War" between China and the United States.
The relationship between China and East Asia is the basic issue of East Asia's international politics. Due to the rise of China, the following questions are unavoidable:
What should be the current and future basis of this relationship?
Can this region view China as a basic force for stability, peace, development and prosperity?
How can benign interaction between China and East Asia be positively planned?
Therefore, East Asia is at a critically historical moment with cooperation and conflicts combined.
All the East Asian nations should realize non-cooperation could probably mean encouraging conflicts leading to a zero-win result. No conflicts or war can ultimately and fundamentally resolve problems.
Stabilizing power relations is one of the key missions.
The core power relations in East Asia are mainly the relationship between China and the United States, China and Japan, and the trilateral relations between China, the United States and Japan.
New strategic mentality
Stabilizing power relations requires a new strategic mentality, direct and sincere dialogue between China, Japan and the United States to eliminate misunderstandings, setting up strategic mutual trust and even reaching strategic cooperation.
China and the United States need to establish a "trans-Pacific" strategic relationship. In recent years, though the Sino-US relationship has managed to be maintained at a practically stable and cooperative level, it apparently lacks long-term strategic plans and actions.
The US-Japanese alliance, with obvious Cold War colors, has served the interests of only Japan and the United States rather than the entire region, and is in fact out of date.
The US-Japanese alliance, with regard to its negative side, particularly in the military field, is mainly set to restrict, prevent and even contain China from playing a role in the region. Consequently, a real strategic dialogue has been lacking between China and the US-Japanese alliance. This is not to mention setting up a new relationship with regional strategy and security as the starting point or seeking the basis of co-existence and cooperation.
Furthermore, Japan attempts to stabilize the Sino-Japanese relations by taking advantage of its alliance with the United States, which, however, does not help to improve Sino-Japanese ties.
In the past several years, Japan's China policy is based on such a mentality. Continuing to maintain the so-called "core of Japan's diplomacy," namely, the US-Japanese alliance, is in fact no different from continuing to maintain the Cold War military structure in East Asia.
What is worth noting is that, no matter whether China or Japan, it would be extremely dangerous if the current uncertain and problematic situation is allowed to develop towards more serious antagonism, competition and clashes.
Wisdom in international politics, effective diplomatic policies, skilled diplomatic approaches and in particular, cool minds, huge political encouragement and great statesmen are needed to handle such complicated international politics in East Asia.
(China Daily August 16, 2004)