Asian perceptions about the EU in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

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The inauguration of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Bangkok in March 1996 has created enthusiasm and hopes for closer inter-regional relations between Asia and Europe. This article observes how behaviors of European countries representatives in the ASEM process have significantly shaped the perceptions of Asian officials and people about the EU and European intentions to develop mutually beneficial relations with Asia. It employs a constructivist framework in which the ASEM process is treated as a dynamic social setting for not only Asia-Europe inter-regional interactions but also intra-Asia socialization. Methodologically, it is a qualitative research with an inductive process and interpretive method. The research uses qualitative data, gathered from various sources and 82 in-depth interviews with diplomats, scholars, journalists, business peoples and civil society representatives in five Asian countries. This study finds that some behaviors of EU participants at ASEM or ASEF interregional forums are counterproductive for EU efforts to develop robust relations with Asian countries. The polarization between Asian and European groups in the ASEM or ASEF meetings, caused by political issues and colonial memory, contributed to the difficulties in trust-building between Asian and European participants. In addition, by their frequent absence from ASEM Summits, EU leaders squandered rare opportunities for a 'meeting of minds and hearts' with their Asian counterparts. This process seems to be a precondition for Asians to develop tangible cooperation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalAsia Europe Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


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