Last Updated 07 May 2020

The Relationship between Asia and the West

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The Relationship between Asia and the West

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Man in his lifetime has secured methods to relate with others in a social group that test his varying degrees of adaptation in a natural environment spurred by distinct identifications that has created a global community of complex and diverse personalities. As a rule, relationships are formed in an effort to homogenize with other cultures and beliefs. Throughout history, dramatic changes have flung nations against one another as the gravity of power shifts to a different side. The 21st century has welcomed the rise of Asia as a dominant economic wealth fielded with diverse cultures that is a point of main concern in the creation of stable and unified relations among nations no longer content to just trade with Asia (Owen 2005, 201). Likewise, the survival instincts of Asian nations also try to ascertain which prevailing power would be an advantageous position in the future and use predetermination patterns for a successful terrain forecasts who will likely rule the future (Kennedy 1987, 10). Both quests needed global solutions that have linked Asia and the West in globally enhanced partnerships to strengthen the western ties across the region (Katzenstein 2005, 10).

The West can not deny the fact that it has taken effective control of the Asian region in a strategy based on “aid and trade” for a better balance between economic, political and socio-cultural elements (Segal and Goodman 1999, 119). It has recognised that Asian countries are partners to equality in the Western effort for globalisation and the important aspect of mutual trade and investment flows is the core importance of this insistence. The EU has even identified that Asia was their third largest regional trading partner and the fourth largest regional investment destination (Yeo 2003, 8). The 21st century may not be the century where Asia replaces the US and Europe as the region of the world with the highest standards of living, however people in Western countries have to come to grips with a world where the balance of political and economic power is more evenly spread across the globe (Owen 2005, 201). Likewise, Asia has also recognised its own enthusiasm of becoming a part of the West and has somewhat become a loose area where huge investment and capital flows important trends with global markets (Segal and Goodman, 1999, 120). The establishment of the ASEM (Asian European Meetings) in 1996 served to strengthened ties between the two regions aimed at increasing an underutilized relationship (Stokhof and Velde 2001, 4).  In view of the relationships built around Asia and western relations, this paper will discuss bilateral economic and trade relations between the Western regions of Europe and Asian regions in the core of its mutual relationship.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Although Asia and Europe already share a long history in trade, the new century has paved the way for diversification in the implementation of economic, social and environmental and security-related challenges for the new millennium (Buruma 2002, 5). Asia has experience a faster economic growth despite a financial crisis encountered in 1997-1998 (Segal and David 1999, 120). Less prosperous countries were seen to advance economically in the international order with assistance which the western countries have recognised after American economic policies never wavered in its focus over the Asian region. Growth in Europe though steady is hampered by its structures while its economy offers pale competition to the energy and innovation of the United States (Stokhof and Velde 2001, 9). Asian economies were seen as much better but its varied and diverse communities is an unrealized potential for a conscious partnership that will work towards a steady economic growth and relations between the two regions (Yeo 2003, 19). Thus, Europe in its stance has pushed for the promotion of the less prosperous countries in the region and work towards the alleviation of poverty through investment reforms and programmes that spearhead alliances between countries.

Along the economic sphere, European banks started economic investments in Asia dwarfing most others in lending to the regions (Stokhof and Velde 2001, 10). Delegations were particularly recognizable in Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal where alliances were established after UK’s strong ties with Japan has increased. The financial crisis almost erased Asia out of the scenario where structural reforms were brought to question but a profound relationship will not only cover trade and finance in its core but through comprehensive governance and environment as its stance. Soon, India as UK’s trade partner and a former colony experience rapid economic growth next to China despite its populous country status thereby causing US and Europe to sit up and take notice (Katzenstein 2005, 45). It should be noted that under the umbrella of a communist party government, China has still emerged with a modern philosophy of Marxism and under tight rein from the communist party to transform itself into a market-based nation. China and its neighbors in Asia soon experienced increasing economic powers which is often a discussion on the western world where decisions were hurled faster to extend and additional driver of the global economy that will drive a major impact on the lives of Asia as well as the populations in the US and Europe.

            In the latest numbers published by the Asian Development Bank show economic growth rates across Asia with the exception of Japan are far more higher than in the US or Europe (ADB 2006 11). While the living standards of people in China or Southeast Asia are still on average far lower than those found in the USA or Europe, the gap is actually narrowing according to the report (12). While Asia’s economic growth may pose as a threat to the Western economic positions, Overholt in his report for the Rand Corporation astutely identified the benefits to the US of an economically growing China where a win-win nature of international trade is quite imminent(2005, 13). Openness to foreign investment and trade is a proven method to improve the quality of lives of everyone, while protectionism and isolation is a proven method of slowing growth and lessening prosperity (Kennedy 1987, 15). Thus it is observed that after an Asian experience of financial imbalance, the West is now the staunch supporter of Asia as it benefits from an open trade while calling for security-related challenges of the new millennium.

Economically, a free trade among countries benefit societies as a whole and open borders serve to increase international trading and investment as open borders have created millions of manufacturing jobs in China, Asia and other developing countries which the American economy has been simultaneously enjoying strong economic performance and the recent report of unemployment under 5% shows joblessness is at a historically very low level for the country (Stokhof and Velde 2001, 34). A current stance for regionalism which is the subject of a major debate in Asia that wanted to create a distance between Japan and China will tend to disappear naturally in the process of regional unification to achieve an Asian version of the reconciliation between France and Germany (Fumiaki 2002, 12).

In the past, the Western imagination saw Asia in a geographic category with a civilisation that is in opposition to the European nation-state. In effect an inherent unity of Asia was not Confucianism to the Chinese or any other homogeneous culture, but a political culture that accommodated different religions, beliefs, nations and societies that under its diverse Asian culture. The West saw Asia as resistant to modern capitalism with sharp oppositions between socialist and colonialist ideas (Segal, Gerald and Goodman 1999, 202). Any ideas that is simultaneously colonialist and anti-colonialist or conservative and revolutionary is actually a matter of the nation-state which is geographic category established in geo-political relations (Stokhof and Velde 2001, 42). As with all conflicts in the Asian continent, this brought home a unified support for improvement in the economic hemisphere which is likewise a unified aim in the region to alleviate itself from the bounds of poverty (Yeo 2003, 28).

Drawn by colonization, the Asians were forced to think on the nature of authority in their communities and in time, Asia came to perceive the world through a creation of political and social order backed up by force that locked them up in a revolutionary process (Owen 2005, 201). However hard to reconcile the global powers have found a way to connect them to offer a promising way to understand how the world works (Katzenstein 2005, 11). Hindrance for growth was pointed by Segal and Goodman as due to Asian dependence on the US for security that served to undercut bargaining and compliance policies between Europe and the US (Segal and Goodman 1999, 119). The lack of coordinated European policies and human rights agenda also served to dampen any plans for intrusion and an international relation between the two regions to balance power into an institutional cooperation for everyone. As the west has recognized its importance, Asia also sought to work on their own against the marauding tides of pessimism backed by Western forces particularly the US in aid which has provided positive results for everyone enjoying an economic balance and prosperity.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia in its proximity has now committed to working with one another to support their political and economic transformation. A Partnership and Cooperation Agreement have been forged that constitute the framework for the relations between the EU and the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (Brussels, 2007) that has brought the EU much closer to the countries of Eastern Europe and Central. The West has also insisted on a network of representation in the countries of Central Asia including Almaty, Chisinau, Kiev, Moscow and Tbilisi, as well as Bishkek, Dushanbe and Yerevan(Brussels, 2007) and promoted policy partner  countries  as an effort to forge unity between itself and Asia as an economic trade partner.


    There is no question that the West has recognised the capacity of Asia to stand up and regain its trade and economic position that it once had prior, during and even after the Mongol occupation in China. Asia then was a contender for global economic power, yet after centuries of poverty amidst natural calamities, Asia has regained its power amidst civil strife and political problems it has encountered. No wonder why the US refused to leave Asia alone because of its recognition of the Asian importance not only in trade but also in the social and environmental and security related challenges. The world can see how Asia aspired and welcome western ideas in their national, regional and local levels in order to support a successful political and economic transformation in the region and the world in a global aspect.


Asian Development Bank 2006, Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007, World Economic Forum.

Buruma, Ian 2002, Missionary and the Libertine, Faber And Faber.

Brussels 2007, Ferrero-Waldner to attend EU-Central Asia ministerial Troika, viewed 28 May 2007,

Fumiaki, Nishiwaki 2002, “Relationship between Japan, the US, China, and Russia from the perspective of China’s 21st century strategy," Sekai Shuho, Tokyo, February, 12-13.

Katzenstein, Peter 2005, A World of Regions: Asia and Europe in the American Imperium, Cornell University Press.

Kennedy, Paul 1987, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, Random House, New York.

Owen, Norman G. 2005, The Emergence of Modern Southeast Asia: A New History, SUP.

Overholt, William. 2005. China and Globalization: Testimony presented to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Viewed on May 28, 2007.

Segal, Gerald and Goodman, David, 1999, Towards Recovery in Pacific Asia, Routledge.

Stokhof, W. and Velde, Paul ven der 2001, Asian-European Perspectives: Developing the ASEM Process. Routledge.

Yeo, Lay Hwee, 2003, Asia and Europe: The Development and Different Dimensions of ASEM, Routledge.

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