Greeting from the President
The concept of an East Asian Community has been spread quietly but steadily leading to the formation of a gigantic trend in the East Asian region. The move towards the integration of Europe, which started as the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952, became the European Community in 1967, and the European Union in 1992. Europeans say that they further envision the creation of the United States of Europe. In comparison, the present state of regional integration in East Asia is at the very embryonic stage.
It is important, however, to realize that even in East Asia, with Japan's economic growth in the 1980s and China's in the 1990s as driving forces, an accumulation of the intra-regional trade and investment led to the formation of a mutually dependent economic zone which at the same time enjoys a certain degree of independence from other regions. The increase in the number of people moving across borders and in the level of cultural exchanges facilitated by the sensitiveness of younger generations resulted in the growth of the socio-cultural symbiotic relations at different civilian levels. In addition, at the governmental level, namely both at the officials level and at the heads of the state level, the momentum for cooperation and integration has been rapidly growing not only in the fields of trade and finance but in those of politics and security. Especially after the economic crisis in 1997, the trend towards integration not only deepened but expanded to cover the whole East Asian region. During the times of crisis, countries in the region realized that their friends in deed were neither the World Bank nor the International Monetary Fund but their neighbors in the region.
It was a most logical development that the heads of ASEAN plus Japan, China and Korea, who started to meet regularly, also began to talk about the concept of the East Asian Community. On the basis of the proposal of the ASEAN-Plus-Three Summit, the Network of East Asian Think-tanks (NEAT) was established in Beijing last September. NEAT is an attempt to draw road map that will realize the dream of an East Asian Community by networking the wisdom of thinktanks in East Asia countries. Japanese participants attending the NEAT meeting were so much impressed by the strength of the aspiration of participants from other countries for the regional integration in East Asia that, upon returning home, they decided to propose an establishment of The Council on East Asian Community (CEAC) in Japan.
CEAC is not intended to be a promotional body for the East Asian Community. Rather it intends to study what the East Asian Community means for Japan and to propose what Japan should do or should not. CEAC will be an all-Japan intellectual platform where people from different circles of Japanese life including government, business, politics, academia and journalism will assemble and discuss the East Asian Community CEAC is not intended to be another research body whose main interest is confined to the study of such day-to-day improvident issues as on-going free trade negations and etc. When we envision the East Asian Community, we must take into consideration not only trade, investment, monetary, financial, political, security, but also social and cultural affairs. A long-term and broad-scope insight into the next 30 to 40 years will be required. There are no forums at present in Japan where such an insight is mobilized. Although there is an accumulation of many excellent studies in Japan that have been conducted independently, they are not widely shared as a common intellectual asset in Japan. Even worse, there ar no forums in Japan where they discuss Japan's strategic response. CEAC was established in Japan on May 18, with the participation of 9 governmental ministries, 11 thinktanks, 13 business corporations and 40 individuals of different expertise. How should Japan react to this gigantic trend in East Asia? Which way should Japan respond, positively or negatively? How should Japan think about the geographical range of suc a Community? Furthermore, how should Japan think about the relationship between the Community and its Alliance with the United States? So many question lie ahead. We promise that CEAC will grapple squarely with these questions.
ITO Kenichi President