Facing with globalization and fierce competition, regional integration becomes a wise choice in order to enhance the competitiveness when trading in the international market. In this context, region integration is promoted worldwide. Among all the regional organizations, EU is considered as the most successful one. Compared with Europe, Eastern Asia has several similarities and advantages. However, the integration in Eastern Asia is still limited to “ASEAN+1”, “ASEAN+3” and little further progress has been made. Therefore, here comes the main question: why is it difficult for Eastern Asia to achieve regional integration?
The second chapter is methodology which involves in research approach, methodological implications, use of empirical data and important definitions. In this chapter, the strategic triangle is used as research approach in which four patterns and shortcomings will be discussed. Both qualitative and quantitative resources are adopted. Books, articles, government websites and reports from institutions are used as empirical data. Besides, in order to avoid misconceptions, two important definitions-regional integration and Eastern Asia-are made in this chapter.
The third chapter is theory. Two theories, namely, constructivism and the strategic triangle, are applied to answer the main question in this thesis. In constructivism parts, key definitions such as structure, culture and identity are made first. Then the thesis illustrates the basic assumptions useful for analysis. After that, a brief introduction of three kinds of cultures is given, which will be combined with the patterns of strategic triangle. Last but not least, the thesis discusses the shortcomings of constructivism such as failing to explain bilateral relations comprehensively. In the strategic triangle, the first two parts introduces the strategic triangle and four patterns. Then the thesis explains the shifts of patterns dynamics. In the end, some critiques of the strategic triangle are made, for example, the strategic triangle originates from bi-polar system, overemphasizes the conflicts, and puts all the countries at the same level.
The fourth chapter is analysis, including 1) China-Japan relations, 2) China-ASEAN relations, 3) Japan-ASEAN relations and 4) the triangle pattern in Eastern Asia. In the first part, the thesis discusses the intentions of China and Japan, “wounded” and “assertive” nationalism, China’s anti-Japan sentiment and the rivalry on regional and economic leadership. Japan intends to maintain leadership in the integration process in Eastern Asia while China wishes Japan to remain an “economic power with political and military handicaps”. Japan’s “wounded nationalism” and China’s “assertive nationalism” refer to the conflicting sentiments resulting from recession and rising respectively. Due to historical reasons, anti-Japan sentiment prevails in China. With China’s rising, the competition on regional and economic leadership between China and Japan also become intense. Therefore, the China-Japan relations are featured by rival or “-”.
In the second part, the thesis explains Sino-centric tributary system, the “tianxia” concept, “China threat” and conflicts on Taiwan issue. Sino-centric tributary system refers to the historical regional order in Eastern Asia while the “tianxia” concept represents one of the prevailing thoughts in China, both of which are considered as China-dominated. In addition, in view of China’s rising during recent decades and China’s actions on Taiwan issue, ASEAN is much likely to assume China “threat”, causing China-ASEAN relations characterized by rival or “-”.
In the third part, the thesis illustrates the unfavorable views, doubts towards each other between Japan and ASEAN. Moreover, Japan is unwilling to give up the agricultural protection while ASEAN resist negotiating trade facilitation issue, which makes them lack of mutual trust. Thereof, their relations are rival or “-”, too.
According to the analysis above, the fourth part shows the pattern in Eastern Asia-“unit veto”, meaning that there is little chance for cooperation and any of them has to compete with the other two at the same time. Therefore, it is difficult for Eastern Asia to achieve regional integration.