Wider Eurasia
International Cooperation in Asia Amid the Transformation of Globalisation and Regionalisation

More international cooperation in Asia is on the horizon. There is always hope that such cooperation may reap the benefits of globalisation and regionalisation in such a way that globalisation helps facilitate conditions conducive to addressing common issues and challenges, especially when the global economy is fragmented, and regionalisation or regional cooperation promotes understandings and activities that would address domestic issues or challenges at the same time, writes Dr. Pornchai Danvivathana, Secretary General, Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD). 

It was an honour to serve, at the invitation of the Valdai Discussion Club, as a panellist on the topic of “Globalisation and Regionalisation: Approaches and Possibilities of Interaction” on December 5, 2023 since I had the privilege to obtain ideas and information in order to better comprehend the state of play of regional state actors and non-state actors, as dictated by globalisation and regionalisation. In this commentary, I’d like to share some more thoughts on international cooperation in Asia, as driven by these two processes.

Globalisation and Regionalisation

After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the subsequent end of the Cold War, Internet access became widely available for the first time. The Internet has played an important and arguably essential role in our day-to-day lives, as the number of internet users, by some estimates, has reached over five billion worldwide. The Internet has made information accessible to people from all walks of life, thus levelling the playing field for everyone and every country. It has at the same time accelerated connectivity and enhanced traditional means of communication, which are now online or hybrid (in-person and online) so that people from every corner of the world can connect remotely. That, in the end, spurs globalisation. So, I cannot but agree with those who claim that globalisation is just a process where a lot of countries have acted to their best advantage, particularly in the areas of international trade and information literacy. Making transactions via e-commerce is a good example because it puts capabilities at one’s fingertips; digital agreements may be used as evidence before a court of law even no paperwork is filled out at the beginning. 

Globalisation has benefited many developing countries so much that they became seen as “emerging markets”; some have successfully managed to lift millions of people out of poverty. Some have managed to rise out of the least developed countries (LDCs) list. This phenomenon could be viewed as prosperity and also an achievement for countries in Asia. 

Nevertheless, while globalisation has contributed to the world economy, the voices of the public in many countries have been heard louder and louder about de-globalisation, or even anti-globalisation, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. When supply chains were disrupted, many countries had adopted their policy approach in favour of resilience and protectionism, while industries have realigned their business models, as reported in the Economist, June 18-24, 2022 issue. 

It is crystal clear that globalisation includes a degree of regionalisation, by all means. Regionalisation may help jump-start globalisation when globalisation is moving at a slow pace. The role of regionalisation has long been recognised under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter: that regional arrangements or agencies can be involved in maintaining international peace and security. In that case, regionalisation is not only a process that brings countries in the regional together for the same purposes, but also a mechanism for standard-setting among states which are in the same regional blocs, because they are fora or venues for states to exchange views and to cooperate in a multilateral setting. At times when the economic and geopolitical landscape changes, multilateralism, especially regionalisation, has gained popularity in addressing the new problems of economic and political challenges, which may have broader impacts on many countries. Moreover, members of the international community need one another more than ever because the world is tighter-knit than before the 1990s: people are interdependent and interconnected, with or without globalisation. In the case of transboundary issues, like climate change or pandemics, it is clear that no country may act alone.

Asia and Eurasia
Globalisation and Regionalisation: Approaches and Possibilities of Interaction
Raashid Wali Janjua
Regionalisation and globalisation are interesting phenomena that have been experienced several times in the past. True globalisation means the economic interdependence of the nations, mainly as a consequence of the mutually beneficial and free movement of goods, capital and labour for the equitable expansion of the economic pie for all.

International Cooperation 

International cooperation is another topic that the public has raised concerns about. Sometimes international cooperation is called into question, for example, with respect to climate change, where a lack of firm commitments is ubiquitous and may always be predicted in advance. However, states are duty-bound to cooperate under international law. The problem is – to what extent states need to cooperate with each other or with one another. At this point, diplomacy is essential in reaching a conducive atmosphere of cooperation. This is simply because international relations among states, which in any group consist of bilateral relations between the states concerned, may be affected by conflicts or influenced by some sort of competition. However, if states are on good bilateral terms, this will contribute to promoting ties and international cooperation between them in the end. 

International cooperation only operates in the interest of the states concerned if their political will prevails and is governed by international law, which addresses the principle of good neighbourliness, as well as the duty to cooperate. In the case of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, (ACD) comprising thirty-five countries, this grouping is driven by voluntarism and steadfast intentions to cooperate in six areas which are prioritised; these are unlikely to be at the centre of controversy. This is another way to demonstrate how all thirty-five ACD Members work in harmony and set aside their own bilateral disagreements, if any. Those “six pillars of cooperation” are: Connectivity; Science, Technology and Innovation; Education and Human Resource Development; The Interrelation of Food, Energy and Water Security; Culture and Tourism; and, Promoting Approaches to Inclusive and Sustainable Development. On top of that, decision-making is always based on consensus. Consensus is tantamount to a right to veto, meaning that any Member State, whether big or small, may object to any decision the group of thirty-five countries would like to commit to. It is always time-consuming to secure a consensus, and even to pave the way for a consensus to emerge. Once consensus is achieved, such accord, as a result thereof, is supposed to be sustainable since the interests of all Member States are safeguarded, as reflected in the “no-objection” method. In this respect, diplomacy has its role to play in convincing all stakeholders to come to an agreement. In other words, diplomacy facilitates the decision-making process.

The other point is the fact that the ACD covers a number of countries, including sub-regional and regional blocs, in Asia; this forum is a good platform to develop a coherent socio-economic strategy for the Asia-wide context and for sub-regional undertakings in order to avoid the duplication of work, given limited financial resources and technology. 

Concluding Remarks 

So far, the focus has been made on international cooperation in Asia at the regional level, unlike in Europe, where attention is paid to the activities of the European Union (EU), with its twenty-seven countries. Social and economic aspects, as well as disaster prevention and relief management or health issues, could be some common wishful areas of cooperation for the benefit of Member States and for the betterment of their peoples in the long run. 

If the ACD could be used as a platform that connects regional and sub-regional blocs or groups together, common issues and challenges could be addressed, corresponding to the national agenda of all the countries concerned, from a broader perspective. That would, in return, prove how cooperation in Asia could supplement and complement the way globalisation is steered. I hope to see this wishful thinking reflected in ACD Vision beyond 2030. 

Nonetheless, I have my conviction that globalisation may not be stopped but stagnated for the time being. Globalisation is a river of no return. The Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are poised to accelerate the pace of globalisation. One might witness the transformation of globalisation. In my view, transformation, in this context, is a phenomenon reflecting how globalisation takes its own course and how it should be regulated or amenable to state practice. The same applies to regionalisation. All in all, globalisation and regionalisation are parallel processes, benefiting each other even despite their transformation. 

In closing, I believe more international cooperation in Asia is on the horizon. There is always hope that such cooperation may reap the benefits of globalisation and regionalisation in such a way that globalisation helps facilitate conditions conducive to addressing common issues and challenges, especially when the global economy is fragmented, and regionalisation or regional cooperation promotes understandings and activities that would address domestic issues or challenges at the same time. I am convinced that all ACD Member States could make Asia a continent of difference, particularly on account of its culture and heritage, which are, in fact, the soft power of Asia.

World Economy
Globalisation Under a Eurasian Westphalian World Order
Glenn Diesen
Isolating Russia to destroy its economy, financial system, and currency failed as the world is no longer Western-centric. Economic sanctions united US adversaries such as Russia, China and Iran, while non-aligned states and partners such as India, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have diversified their economic connectivity to reduce dependence on the West, writes Valdai Club expert Glenn Diesen.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.