A Regional Approach to Northeast Asia

The 1990s pose a test for the world system unlike any before. For the first time in modern history, as many non-Western countries as Western ones occupy the ranks of great powers. Following half a millennium of Western ascendancy, the balance is shifting, and abruptly. Moreover, the three undisputed great powers of non-Western origin–China, Japan, and Russia–can be clearly distinguished from the United States and the leading European powers by virtue of the fact that they are still struggling to define their own identities and national interests. While they show no hesitation in insisting on their right to influence the shaping of the post-cold war “order” all three lack a clear sense of what to do with their considerable power. Finally, as we strive to predict the impact of their new roles, it is important not only to consider them individually but also to examine their collective weight as part of what might be labeled the non-Western, or Northeast Asian, triangle. Somehow this mighty, unstable triangular relationship must be integrated into the geometry of any new world order.

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