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Friday, February 3, 2012

A review on the book: CRISIS AND TRANSFORMATIONS IN NORTHEAST ASIA: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PHILIPPINES Edited by: Xavier Anthony Furtado Reviewed by: Enrique S. Arlanza, Jr. IV-18 BSE History POSTED: February 3, 2012 Friday

Northeast Asia and the Philippines in context:
An introduction by Enrique S. Arlanza, Jr. February 3, 2012

As I turned on the television set and switch the channels to ABS-CBN, from GMA, to TV 5 or any channel that the remote control can reach, there is an obvious thing that seems to be viral – Korean dramas in all forms are now a menu of the Filipino leisure and entertainment and becoming part of our social consciousness be it comedy, historical, or action or love story. I actually love watching Korean Historical Dramas like Dong Yi today because as history major and as a history lover so to speak, I’m getting familiar with the ancient history of Korea hidden to the rest of the world. Ask one Filipino and it is sure that he is familiar of Endless Love, Stairways To Heaven, Baker King, Jewel in the Palace or Jumong and among of the so many epic dramas that reflect the rich and very beautiful culture of Korea. And nowadays, every high school student (college student as well) has his one favorite Korean pop group and now becoming a fan of the hally wave. Name it they have it.

We are getting in touch with the news by watching TV Patrol or 24 Oras and we are shocked with all the executions that the Chinese government punished for Elizabeth Batain, Ramon Credo, and Sally Ordinario. The whole world was once shocked on the earthquake and tsunami that trembled Japan last year. We witnessed at that eye popping and dreadful moment how the Japanese people prove to the world that with helping hands and with government determination and immediate action, they can surpass the challenge that natural disasters brought to their country. And just recently, we are fascinated how North Korean people sympathized and mourned on their late beloved leader’s wake, Kim Jong Il.

With all these main events and themes of the Northeast Asian region I outlined, we come to think that these events and themes, which happened just adjacent north to our country, at least at some point affected the Filipinos as Asians in context.

Moreover, the story I’m going to expound here is not about how our entertainment and the social media were influenced by East Asian region although they are powerful tools for information dissemination and news, but rather this blog delves on the close relations of the Philippines with the countries of the Northeast Asian Region from the strategic, economic, and cultural vantage points. The themes I presented above are just evidences that we Filipinos are very familiar of the Northeastern Asian cultures and at this point we should also make familiar of the economic activities that are happening between the Northeast Asian region and the Philippines in the Southeast Asian region.

Technically and geographically speaking, the Philippines is part of the Southeast Asian region. But one should ask why is it that we are also making strong connections with the Northeast Asian region? One probable cause that will serve the purpose for this is that we are culturally, historically, and geographically proximate with the countries that lie in this region. And more than that, it is the economic linkage that makes us one of them. And it is like a dream come true of making linkages with them because the countries in this region are economically rich and culturally known. At least we can boastfully say that at some point we are one of them and they are, too. And we are quite not foreign to them. A glance at the map would show us how closer Manila is to Xiamen, Hong Kong and Taipei than it is to Kuala Lumpur and Rangoon say for example. Manila is equidistant to Tokyo and Bangkok as well as to Seoul and Jakarta. Distance from the said places doesn’t really matter just for the purpose of glancing because we can do that at geography classes by looking at maps. But what is the significance of this? Because economically, distance matters and glancing the distances at the map provides some sort of insight about the economic relations of these countries.

In terms of economic and cultural interaction, our ancestors had long trading relations with the Japanese and the Chinese in the pre-colonial times as much as they did with their neighbors in southern parts of Asia. In colonial times, relations with Southeast Asian countries were limited compared to the lucrative commerce with China and Japan that continued during the Spanish and American periods.
The presence of a large number of Chinese and during the pre-war period, Japanese – immigrants reinforced the cultural connection with Northeast Asia. It is no wonder that many Filipino customs and words originated from China. Icons of Philippine History – from Jose Rizal to Corazon Aquino trace part of their ancestry to China.

In addition, the Philippines and Japan have also close historical affinity. Some Japanese soldiers were known to have fought alongside our revolutionaries in 1896. However, during the Pacific War 45 years later, our two peoples were to be on the opposite sides. But now, we are once more strategic partners. We are both part of the security network of democratic countries in the North Pacific. With the end of the Cold War, there has been an increasing awareness of the common interests that bind the new and older democracies in the region.

And now we must get into the content proper of the book. To make things clearer, the book was a collection of papers discussed in an International Conference “The Philippines and Northeast Asia in the 21st Century” held at The Peninsula Manila on February 8-9 of 1999. It was sponsored by the Yuchengco Center for East Asia. The papers used in the conference were compiled and published. The book has 11 papers. Each of the papers was written by separate individuals. The following papers come with a main idea that summarizes each paper for a quick overview:

1. The Stability of Northeast Asia: Its Relevance to the Philippines by Carolina G. Hernandez

MAIN IDEA: The Philippines is very much linked to its neighbors, not only in ASEAN, but also in Northeast Asia. Due to the realities of economic interdependence and globalization, it cannot consider itself to be immune from the fate of Northeast Asia. Consequently, it must pay close attention to developments in Northeast Asia, develop enhanced relations and cooperative arrangements with the countries in this region, and help to strengthen regional mechanisms for economic, political, and security cooperation. Because ASEAN is a key factor for regional stability, the Philippines needs to ensure that ASEAN’s role is preserved in spite of the challenges confronting ASEAN at present. The preservation of ASEAN’s cohesion and credibility is a key task in anticipation of the twenty-first century which, despite the crisis, many in the region still hope will be the ‘Pacific Century’. The Philippines should close ranks with other states in the region that share this vision.

2. The Interface between the Philippines and Northeast Asian Economies by Bernardo M. Villegas

MAIN IDEA: Our country has managed to establish relatively good relations with its Northeast Asian neighbors, but much can still be done to further improve the interaction between the two. Such areas of improvement will be beneficial to both parties. There are many advantages that are expected to continue for trade and investment liberalization within the Asia-Pacific Region.

3. Sino-Philippine Trade Relations in the Next Century by Chen Songlu

MAIN IDEA: China and the Philippines have strong trade relations in the areas of finance, energy and transportation, agricultural outputs, electronic industry, industrial raw materials or industry goods and infrastructure. And until now, it is growing and going stronger as more efforts were being undertaken by China and the Philippines. Because our government has undertaken series of reforms meant to promote economic growth. Efforts to deepen existing reforms and increase domestic demand are intended to ensure that the Chinese economy continues to grow and as a result, is able to contribute to some degree of regional stability.

4. Economic Developments in Japan and East Asia: Past, Present and Future by Teiichi Wada

MAIN IDEA: It pointed out that elsewhere in Northeast Asia, Japan is a country that had undergone great significant changes and transformation of its economy over the past decades and offers some speculations about what might be to come. It is debatable whether the economic and political model that served the country so well for most of the second half of the 20th century can continue to be successful. The Japanese people, long accustomed to tolerating extended workdays, overcrowding, pollution, high prices, and only modest buying power in the interest of rapid economic growth are agitating for changes that will improve their living standards.

5. Japan in the 21st Century: Implications for Japan-Philippines Relations in the Political Dimension by Toshiya Hoshino

MAIN IDEA: Japan and the Philippines have enjoyed stable and constructive relations for many years. The Philippines, with its continuous efforts toward political and economic reform, is an important partner that shares the same values of democracy and market economies. We see a common future in a stable and prosperous region, and our bilateral cooperation in the political area would be certain to enhance the peace in this region.

6. Patterns in the Development of Korea’s Economy: Past, Present and Future by Dal Hyun Kim

MAIN IDEA: As I read the paper, there is the idea on my mind that the future of the Koreas is uncertain. The paper discussed only the patterns of development of the Korea’s economy but it is the future that awaits the people of their countries. South Korea needs more energy to grow its industrialized economy so that it can better compete with Japan or China eventually. North Korea also needs energy to begin its development, and it has numerous sites at which hydroelectric dams could be built, especially if South Korea were to provide the investment capital. But after all, the reunification would require much sacrifice from South Koreans, just as it has from West Germany as they attempt to merge their economy with that of much poorer formerly communist East Germany. Finally, because of the big difference in wealth between the two Koreas, reunification would mean that money that might have been used to develop South Korea further would have to be used to pay for basic improvements in North Korea.

7. Japanese, Koreans, Taiwanese Investment in ASEAN: Implications for the Philippines by Hideyoshi Sakai

MAIN IDEA: The ASEAN region has seen a significant increase in foreign direct investment from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan that was primarily meant for reengineering the networks of the industrial structure. It also pointed out here that there are varieties of reasons that have driven Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese firms to expand their production networks to include Southeast Asia. Moreover, because of the many Northeast Asian firms in our country, they become more and more specialized in the production of parts for electronic and electrical appliances. Therefore, in other words, our country’s export earning depends on these firms continually exporting their products in many regions of the world. This situation is not surprising anymore.

8. Political Changes in China and Their Implications on the Philippines by Benito Lim

MAIN IDEA: Political Changes, as expounded in this paper, pertain to China’s stand on its internal and external affairs that created issues on territorial gains, disputes, conflict and military security that brought much effect on our country. Of course, the well-celebrated issue of the territorial dispute between China and Philippines in claiming the Kalayaan Group of Islands. This is not new. It is an issue, if not totally a conflict, that pose challenge to the relationship of China and the Philippines. But still, our country should not give up its claim to the Kalayaan group, it should at the same time be more imaginative and creative in improving its relations with China so that it is better able to provide its citizens with greater prosperity well into the coming century.

9. Northeast Asia in the Twenty-First Century: Prospects for Cooperation and Implications for the Philippines by Gerardo L. Largoza, Ponciano S. Intal, Jr., and Tereso S. Tullao, Jr

MAIN IDEA: The paper describes the scenario of the economic activity that has been brought about by a number of crucial developments in China, Japan, and South Korea. And this economic activity will likely play a significant role in defining the future of the region. The cooperation of these countries brought about many implications in the Philippines that should prepare policymakers to respond to the challenges of the 21st century. Diverse as all the developments in Northeast Asia may seem, it is possible to draw some general conclusions regarding the changing division of labor as well as a possible Philippine response on exports, industries, education, and development programs.

10. From Developmental to Globalizing State: Changes on the Korean Peninsula in the Twenty First Century and the Implications for Southeast Asia by Pedro Bernaldez

MAIN IDEA: South Korea underwent a serious political transformation from its days as a developmental state to being what some term a “globalizing state”. Focusing on the political changes currently taking place in Korea, we can speculate on what the future may hold for Korean politics and the Korean peninsula. While North Korea will inevitably form part of this analysis, there are several implications of these changes drawn for Southeast Asia and Philippine-Korean relations. In the efforts of the Philippines to establish good relations with Koreans, the common denominator of this relationship is the promotion of democracy.

11. Imagining a Secure Future in East Asia: Northeast Asia and the Philippines in the Twenty-First Century by Emmanuel Lallana

MAIN IDEA: The future of security relations between the Philippines and Northeast Asia is determined by two factors. The first one is the complex relationship between Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan in the Northeast Asian security complex. The second determinant of the security relationship is the quality of the Philippines’ bilateral relations with its various neighbors in Northeast Asia specifically China, Japan and South Korea. Aside from the factors, it is as well important to look at how the economic slowdown in Asia will affect the prospects for security cooperation.

Reflections on the Northeast Asian Region

The opening of China to the Global economy and to outside influences presents huge economic opportunities for other East Asian countries as well as Southeast Asian countries, but it also means stiff competition for their economies. Most of China’s Northeast Asian competitors have already begun to invest in the rapidly growing businesses in Chinese coastal areas. But the expectation of benefits from China’s debut into capitalism could be premature. It is not at all clear yet how the rapid social changes occurring in China will be worked out politically either within the country or internationally. Will economic liberalization lead to more political freedom for ordinary people and more public input into such issues as environmental policy? Will China’s emerging policies toward Hong Kong and Taiwan bring continued rapid economic growth, social change, and outside contact? Or will they result in a reversion to greater control of people and economies and a break with the international community?

Leadership within the region is in question. Residual animosities toward Japan linger because of the excesses it committed during its imperial period before and during World War II. Whether Japan can earn the confidence of fellow Asians and play a leader ship role in Northeast and Southeast Asia may depend on how it solves its own internal financial crises and on whether it opens its own markets to its neighbors. China’s rapidly expanding economy will surely enhance its position as a regional leader. If it seriously seeks a leadership role, China would be wise to woo the overseas Chinese, many of whom were forced to leave China during the revolution but have since prospered in Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. Politically, there is no clear leader in the effort to bring more participatory democracy to East Asia. Although variations on parliamentary democracy appear to be gaining ground in East Asia, in every country in the region, actual power overwhelmingly tends to remain with male elite.

A combination of factors related to population control will profoundly affect the future. These factors include shrinking family size, the increase in the proportion of retired and elderly people, and the fact that women are no longer available to stay home to care for children and elders. To cope with these changes, governments may have to spend more on social services and be content with slower economic growth. The population issue most emphasized in Northeast Asia today is the need to curtail population growth yet the issue that may most influence the future is finding a way to care for large numbers of aging people.

There is also the question of how Northeast Asia will deal with the world’s cultural diversity. Barring a major reversal of policy by China both personal and electronic contact between all of the Northeast Asia and the Southeast Asia will increase significantly. Not only will outsiders from all backgrounds have more influence, but women and minority groups within each country are bound to become more politically assertive. A possible outcome is that Northeast Asian society will become more welcoming to other cultures and to the idea of women acting in expanded roles.


Northeast Asia, along with Southeast Asia, will be considering how to balance the desire for a clean, safe economical and ecological environment with the desire for consumer lifestyles. In this regard, the tremendous talents of innovation and synthesis found throughout Northeast Asia may be called upon even more in the future than they have in the past.


Personally, I have nothing against the book itself, since it is a collection of papers discussed in an international conference. Each paper and its writer are all articulate in expressing their genuine thoughts about the future of relations of the Northeast Asian region and the Philippines. All the papers in the book provided me a realization that economic efforts are really visible and happening between the two regions and they are merging their utmost efforts in maintaining economic and political stability in the region. Highly recommended!

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