The New Order in Asia

Asia and the Road Ahead: Issues for the Major Powers

by Robert A. Scalapino
University of California Press, 337 pp., $10.95

Europe’s colonial expansion was a 500-year wonder, but today the major nations of Asia, modernizing late upon the ruins of ancient empires, are reasserting their claims to be of central importance. Europe’s most dynamic product, the US, has to live with the older and bigger cultures of China and India as well as Japan and Indonesia. Meanwhile, Europe’s other dynamic offshoot, the USSR, approaching by land, is becoming an Asian-Pacific power in a way that America’s approach by sea can never equal. Will not the ancient empires, once they mature as modern nations, industrialized and militarized, retain a more collectivist and bureaucratic style suited to their traditions as well as their denser and poorer populations? As we grow also and adjust to them, can we retain our openness? Our bicentennial finds us painfully aware that our frontier politics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are not the only model for mankind, that indeed every other major people has had a more recent revolution, and our official ideology is ill suited to much of the world. To rejuvenate it we must be less culture-bound, more informed and realistic.

Robert Scalapino has been a leader in the Asian revolution in American thinking. Beginning with Japan (he was a language officer in World War II), he has brought East Asia into the jealously guarded precincts of American political science, that universal discipline which originally abhorred all cultural idiosyncrasies or special terms except its own. (The concept of “political culture,” to be sure, now bravely tries to take account of the “non-West” ‘s peculiarities, but it still suffers from being now-minded and nonhistorical for the most part.) Professor Scalapino has made twenty-six trips to Asia, written eight books and sixty articles, to say nothing of hundreds of radio and TV shows, and scores of conferences. His scholarly accomplishments at Berkeley and his public service have stimulated a generation of Asian experts, many of whose works are among the 500 recent books selected as a bibliography for this latest volume.

Asia and the Road Ahead is a disciplined, professional study of national interests and power relations in a world where balances of power now tend to supplant the old Europocentric “international order” of accepted principles and procedures. Colorful personalities and dramatic incidents have little place in this careful structure of generalizations. The result is not only well informed about a vast range of subjects but also strenuously objective.

Amid the unprecedented global problems and the general lack of leadership, with development faltering and democracy in trouble, Mr. Scalapino grants that world-wide international agreements and arrangements will probably fail, “in part if not in whole, temporarily if not permanently.” His book therefore appraises the prospects of regionalism among the older, Asian half of mankind. What supranational structures may be expected in the Pacific Ocean, Northeast Asia, the Asian continental center, Southeast Asia, and South Asia? In particular, what foreign relations may we foresee for Japan, China India, and Indonesia plus …

This article is available to Online Edition and Print Premium subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
If you already have one of these subscriptions, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks.com account. If you subscribe to the print edition, you may also need to link your web site account to your print subscription. Click here to link your account services.