mahbubani29_Sonny TumbelakaAFP via Getty Images SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP via Getty Images
en English

How Asia Keeps the Peace

Since the end of the Cold War, Europe has constantly had to manage violent conflicts on its doorstep, whereas most of Asia has been free of major wars. The reason is relatively simple: Asia has benefited from a culture of pragmatism that treats political division as an impetus for closer dialogue.

SINGAPORE – Here is a new truism for this age of global tension: wars are the result of geopolitical incompetence, whereas peace reflects strategic skill.

When the Cold War ended three decades ago, the general expectation was that Europe would remain at peace, while Asia would descend into war. In 1993, the American political scientist Aaron L. Friedberg wrote that Asia seemed far more likely than Europe to be the “cockpit of great-power conflict.” In the long run, he predicted, “Europe’s past could be Asia’s future.”

Needless to say, it did not turn out that way. From the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s to Russia’s war in Ukraine today, Europe has been dealing with violent conflict for more than 30 years, even though there has been no chance of war between European Union members. By contrast, even though Asian countries do not enjoy the kind of relations that exist among EU states, there have been no major wars in the region during this period. This is a remarkable achievement, especially considering that the three biggest wars of the Cold War – the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Sino-Vietnamese War – were fought there.