I attended a fantastic event this week at the Japan Society in NYC with Francis Fukuyama and Kent Calder about their new book East Asian Multilateralism: Prospects for Regional Stability. Gideon Rose moderated.
One of the take away points that Fukuyama made was on Chinese democracy: It won't come anytime soon. The idea that development will push democracy in China doesn't work, he said. No one knows whether Chinese will accept the notion that the country has to embrace human rights to get what it wants. Fukuyama's concern is that gains from growth in China are so lopsided that democratic representation could mean a redistribution of wealth that would cancel out those gains. In any case, China could become the first country to democratize over the environment "because the are poisoning themselves." But he is optimistic for the long run.
In the book, Fukuyama, Calder, and their coauthors grapple with a changing security environment in East Asia where the traditional hub and spoke system has become outdated. What is dramatically different about the current situation, argues Fukuyama, is "the changed posture of South Korea... South Korea has shifted from being a bastion of anti-communism to seeking reconciliation and ultimate reunification with North Korea." Meanwhile, Korea-China relations have warmed. The South Korean spoke is "slowly rotting away."
To deal with new trends in China, South Korea, North Korea, and Japan, the United States needs to consider a multilateral framework for Asia, beyond the hub and spoke system. As Kent Calder put it, Northeast Asia is under-institutionalized, suffering from an organization gap. The areas of promise for institutionalization include the environment, energy, and finance.
Fukuyama outlined five options in his chapter:
Option one would be to maintain the current bilateral system and oppose multilateral institutions that do not include the United States, as Richard Armitage has argued.
Option two would be to lay the foundations for a multilateral containment barrier against China. He said a "sophisticated version" of this idea is contained in the project I ran at CSIS. In that project, Sherman Katz, Robert Fauver, and I argued for an East Asian economic community that would "incorporate as criteria for membership certain elements of good governance--for instance, rule of law, transparency, government accountability, and so on," as Fukuyama put it. You can read my proposal with Katz for these Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (CEPAs) here from the American Interest.
Option three would be to create a five-power organization based on the six party talks. This is a proposal that Ian Bremmer and many others have proposed. My only critique about this concept is that it not take on too many sectors, as I argued in the National Interest here.
Option four would be to revitalize existing forums such as APEC in which the United States is a member. This is a concept that has been touted by many government officials in public but sometimes scoffed at in private. Many say that APEC is too big to get anything done.
The final option would be "re-Asianize" Japan by taking an existing forum such as ASEAN Plus Three and having Japan engage that forum in a more meaningful way. This idea was pushed by Kazuhiko Togo in the book and seemed to be Fukuyama's preferred route.