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Can Asia lead? Power ambitions and global governance in the twenty-first century



    1. UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance and Professor of International Relations at the School of International Service, American University, Washington DC.
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    • An earlier version of this article was prepared for the S. T. Lee Project on Global Governance at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore. The author would like to thank Ann Florini and Kishore Mahbubani for comments on an earlier draft.


Is the much hyped ‘rise of Asia’ translating into global public good? The leading Asian powers, China, India and Japan, demand a greater share of the decision-making and leadership of global institutions. Yet, they seem to have been more preoccupied with enhancing their national power and status than contributing to global governance, including the management of global challenges. This is partly explained by a realpolitik outlook and ideology, and the legacies of India's and China's historical identification with the ‘Third World’ bloc. Another key factor is the continuing regional legitimacy deficit of the Asian powers. This article suggests that the Asian powers should increase their participation in and contribution to regional cooperation as a stepping stone to a more meaningful contribution to global governance.