Following the Cold War, East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) has become the globe's second most powerful region economically, militarily, and politically. Unlike Western Europe (France, Germany, Great Britain), North America (Canada, Mexico, the United States), and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile), these three East Asian countries have legitimately harbored little trust for each other, resulting in high militarization throughout the region. The Korean peninsula constitutes one of the world's four major flashpoints for a nuclear war. East Asia also contains the second, the Taiwan Strait, with Kashmir and the Middle East located in South and West Asia respectively. East Asia has thus become an area of great hope and great danger.
Despite the traditional antipathy between the Koreans and the Japanese and the unique tension-filled relationship between the Chinese and the Japanese, historical and cultural links do remain. Whereas autonomous and politically engaged religious and secular institutions characterize the West, East Asia has experienced the unified political-religious legitimacies of the state in Confucian and Maoist forms, and the separate tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. Korea and Taiwan have produced strong indigenous Buddhist and Christian traditions. Although their cultures and spoken languages preexisted the borrowing, the Koreans and the Japanese did adopt the Chinese writing system and facets of Chinese art and literature. Buddhism and Confucianism profoundly influenced all three countries, with neo-Confucianism eventually winning out among the political elite in ninth-century China, fifteenth-century Korea, and seventeenth-century Japan.