Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 June 2017
If the last decade of the 20th century, to whose final death throes we are now the unhappy witnesses, can be termed the Age of Nationalism, then the 21st century, whose pale dawn is visible over the horizon, can be aptly described as the Coming Age of Regionalism. This Foreword focuses on regionalism rather than on ASEAN because the latter is no more than a local manifestation of a global political, economic and cultural development which will shape the history of the next century.
Should regionalism collapse, then ASEAN too will go the way of earlier regional attempts like SEATO, ASA and MAPHILINDO. All that remains today of these earlier experiments are their bleached bones. Should the new regional efforts collapse, then globalism, the final stage of historical development, will also fall apart. Then we will inevitably enter another Dark Ages and World War III, fought this time not with gun-powder, but with nuclear weapons far more devastating than those exploded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Modern technology and science are pushing the world simultaneously in the direction of regionalism and globalism. What is responsible for today's economic disintegration, disorder and violence is the resistance offered by nationalism to the irresistible counter-pressures of regionalism and globalism.
As of today, there are only two functioning and highly respected regional organizations in the world. They are, in order of their importance and seniority, the European Community (EC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The first came into being in 1957 and the second in 1967. A mere ten years separates the two. The population of the European Community as at 1990 was 350 million, and that of ASEAN an estimated 323 million. In terms of population, they are not all that unequal. In terms of political and economic dynamism, though, the gap is qualitatively wider. The economic dynamism and the proven political cohesion of ASEAN is nevertheless slowly but steadily narrowing the gap between the European Community and ASEAN. To com-pare ASEAN with the so-called Little Dragons of Asia is to compare unrelated political species. The Little Dragons are lone wolves hunting separately. They lack collective strength or awareness. With them it is a case of each wolf for itself.