EUChinaBetween

Last week, the UACES Collaborative Research Network recently successfully concluded its Third Workshop on Europe-China Relations in Global Politics. This year’s overarching theme was Regional Integration in Asia and Europe. It was a great conference, with excellent papers and exciting debates. Having the privilege of holding the closing speech, I tried to sum up and comment on the results. In total, we discussed four themes.

Theme 1: A German Europe? A Chinese Asia? Leadership of Regional Integration in Asia and Europe:

– Is leadership contradictory to regional integration as such? Some of the participants clearly see it this way. Others disagree but admit that leadership needs to be balanced. But how so?

– An important puzzle in this context is that on the one hand, regional integration needs an ‘engine’; on the other hand, there are national sensitivities which are on the rise in Europe and which have always been very pronounced in Asia, too, since the first regional integration projects were started.

– The role of Germany in this context seems schizophrenic: increasing numbers of politicians and commentators ask for a more prominent German foreign policy; at the same time, and for obvious historical reasons, Germany has to be very careful in striking a balance.

– Similar things apply to China: the People’s Republic taking a more assertive foreign policy towards its Asian neighbours is a very sensitive issue – however, it is probably unavoidable, given China’s sheer economic and political weight.

Theme 2: Regional Integration in Asia and Europe and the Role of the US:

– It should not be forgotten that regional integration in both Europe and Asia have not been exclusively endogenous projects but were fostered by the United States of America.

– This is why current research on regional integration needs to dig out an old concept coined by Philippe Schmitter: externalization. It means that regional integration is a function of the influence of actors that are outsiders of a given regional integration process. The candidates to exert to steer or to inhibit such processes were clear during the Cold War era. But which actor(s) are most influential in a multipolar world?

Theme 3: Overcoming the Crisis: Economic and Business Prospects in the Course of Regional Integration in Asia and Europe

– Given that the overwhelming majority of participants had a political science background, it seems necessary to bring back business scholars and economists back into the debate of regional integration.

– This is important because analyses of European integration scholars can be somewhat romanticized. By the end of the day, European politicians and citizens are however rational actors. Respectively, support for regional integration remains a rational equation of what one invests in such projects and what one gets out of it. Such calculus needs to be linked with the larger, sometimes less tangible political goals

– In this context, and taking into account the European experience of regional integration, two questions arise:

1) What is Asia’s coal and steel?

2) What is Europe’s current coal and steel?

Theme 4: From Borders to Bridges or Vice Versa? Regional Integration, Peripheral Countries, and Sub-State Actors

– Especially in the context of the Crimean crisis and its triggers, one needs to bring back identity into the debate on regional integration. As Teresa Kuhn from Freie Universität Berlin put it: Nobody falls in love with a common market.

– For regional integration to connect people rather than to separate them, Asia should learn from Europe and avoid a top-down process of regional integration.

– Given the rising Euroscepticism, researchers need to focus on why awareness of the benefits of regional integration (cheaper goods, freedom of movement, and of course almost seven decades without a war between or among EU member states) seems to vanish.

A report, photos, and other material will soon be available here.

So long / 祝好,

Frauke

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