Globalization and Regional Security: Asia Perspectives
February 23-25, 1999
Nearly two years since Asias economic
crisis began, the region has begun to express doubts about the impact of globalization on
regional societies. Although the term defies simple definition, participants agreed that
globalization has several core characteristics:
Globalization and Regional Security
The impact of globalization on Asias security is complex. In some ways the impact
has been positive: economic integration has reduced the potential for conflict,
particularly in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, globalization may give rise to new security
concerns, and aggravate existing tensions.
- Unprecedented economic interdependence, driven by cross-border
capital movements, rapid technology transfer, and "real time" communication and
- Rise of new actors that challenge state authority,
particularly non-governmental organizations and civic groups, global firms and production
networks, and even financial markets.
- Growing pressure on states to conform to new international
standards of governance, particularly in the areas of transparency and accountability.
- The emergence of an increasingly Western-dominated international
culture, a trend which in many countries has sparked concern about the erosion of
national identity and traditional values.
- The rise of severe transnational problems that require
multilateral cooperation to resolve.
Globalization and Sovereignty Although
globalization is often viewed as a challenge to national sovereignty, states in Asia have chosen
to embrace the global economy. During Asias boom years, globalization was viewed as
a tool for strengthening national power, rather than as a potential threat. This view was
reinforced by the belief in Asia that governments could participate in the global economy
without altering domestic political structures and practices. Across the region growing
wealth often coexisted with authoritarianism.
- New transnational threats Globalization has contributed
to the rise of energy and environmental issues, food and water access, migration, and
organized crime and terrorism as major security concerns. To be effective, responses to
these problems must be multilateral in nature.
- Weakening regional institutions The financial crisis
has weakened Asias two major regional organizations, APEC and ASEAN. APEC was
helpless during the crisis, and ASEAN appears increasingly divided.
- Shifts in the balance of power Because globalization
can fuel rapid economic growth, shifts in the balance of power can occur more quickly than
in the past. Rapid Chinese growth and Japanese economic stagnation may change the
strategic equation in Asia in a relatively brief period of time.
- Expanding roles for the military The combination of new
threats and lingering concerns will place unprecedented demands on regional military
organizations. Militaries will have to take on new roles, even as resources decline and
Events in Indonesia, however, suggest that globalization can
force political, as well as economic, change. Globalization can exacerbate divisions
within society, with some groups profiting more from globalization than others
Indonesias ethnic Chinese, for example. In the face of globalization, ethnic
divisions and separatist movements could worsen, and social cohesion could suffer as well.
Authoritarian regimes may have more to fear from globalization than
democratic states. Governments that embrace norms such as transparency, accountability,
and the rule of law concepts that form the backbone of democratic societies
appear to have suffered less from the financial crisis than their authoritarian
For now, few Asian governments appear likely to reject globalization
entirely. Nevertheless, the possibility of an Asian backlash primarily against the
United States remains real. A new "grand bargain" between the West and
Asia is essential. The West must recognize that Asian concern over eroding values and
social cohesion is legitimate; Asia must cease demonizing the West for its role in
spurring globalization, because no nation is immune to the challenges and opportunities it
Conference Summary Report, "Globalization in Asia: Getting the Breeze
Without the Bugs"