The East Asian Complex Networks

Waseda University
MORIKAWA, Yuji

Development of a More Unified Asia: East Asia is engaged in a repeated process of coming together and drifting apart that will soon result in the creation of an area or region of a definite size. The East Asian Network Analysis is the first attempt in the area of Asian studies to analyze rationality using social network analysis, and also to explain East Asia in a comprehensible manner in the face of the rapid change occurring in the region with graphs and charts representing the regional relationships among East Asian countries and peoples. For the purpose of clarifying the attributes of the East Asian region where regionalization is being accelerated after the Asian currency crisis in 1997, extensive data in the categories of politics, economy, society, and culture were collected dating back to 1980 and was analyzed chronologically and in a cross-sectional manner.

One of the major characteristics of this book is the quantum data approach to understanding Asia’s rationality (“Asianess”) from the three perspectives of (1) time, (2) uniformity (systematicity), and (3) relativity with the focus of network analysis. The relationships in East Asia that were arrived at from the analysis of long-term data and diagramed illustrations are expected to be a first step toward presenting the materials and the new perspective needed to grasp the true image of East Asia.

Feature 1: Chronological understanding and numerical (data-based) analysis

A long-term timeframe of 25 years (1980 to 2004) was established, and rationality was inferred by a simple network plotting (see chapter entitled “Exchange”) and numerical analysis (see chapter entitled “Analysis”).

Feature 3: The Convergence of the East Asian Complex Network

The formation of regional relationships was understood through the interaction of researchers in different categories. In addition to the assessment of the regional conditions based on the sectional analysis, the categories of politics, economy, and society/culture were analyzed. The neo-functional approach for regional formation and integration that is the mainstream thinking for the establishment of an East Asian community is verified based on the collected data.

1. Summary of the East Asian regional exchanges

Setting up the 25-year long-term timeframe from 1980 to 2004, actual conditions were assessed in political, economical and socio-cultural exchanges in East Asia by referring to the transition of quantity, expansion of phases and patterns shifts, while adding supplementary explanations using numerical statistics. The pattern of exchanges were divided into three categories of concentration, polarization and decentralization to sort out characteristics of regional formation per category, especially by paying attention to the shift of intraregional exchanges of East Asia. The result shows that Japan-U.S.-centered exchanges in the 80’s tended to expand in a finely meshed pattern in the East Asian region after the late 90’s, although there is a time lag due to different attributes of exchanges depending on the category and item.

(1) Economy: Development of interdependence and expansion of disparity

Intra-regional economic interdependence that pushed forward with the formation of the East Asian region has expanded rapidly, while deepening interdependence with the outside regions. Various graphs of the economic field show expanding two-way interactions both in and out of the region. However, globalization and growth of the East Asian economy that accelerated in the late 90’s cannot be simply grasped depending on whether in or outside of the region based on the conventional geographical concept.

Expansion of interdependence in East Asia accelerated in the late 90’s, and the flow of trade as of 2004 is quite different from the trade pattern among “Japan, U.S. and other Asian countries” in the early 80’s. Due to economical growth of the advance members of ASEAN and development of China into a major economic power, the pattern of exchanges has changed into a trade network in which interdependence of Japan-China-Korea, ASEAN-Japan-China, within the advance members of ASEAN, and between the advance members (Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia) and the late members of ASEAN overlap one another(F6-9).

As for foreign direct investments that have supported the East Asian economy along with trade, asymmetric relation is still the mainstream that features one-way flow from the advanced outside countries including the U.S. and from Japan or Korea into the East Asian region. However, China is gradually changing from an investment recipient country into an investing country (F10-11).

(2) Politics and military affair: Polarization and decentralization

Among politics, economy and socio-culture, the fields of politics and military affairs that represent state-to-state relations clearly show a mixed pattern of “polarization” and “decentralization.” The “polarization” network in which a small number of nations positioned at the center of the exchanges is equivalent to the cold-war-era international political structure centering on the U.S., USSR and China. After 1995, Russia has stepped back from the center of the polarized structure and the Russia-centered subsystems disappeared completely. Instead, a “decentralization” network in which two-way interactions spread in a finely meshed pattern has been expanding.

The map of summit-level exchanges in East Asia and bilateral treaty exchanges is indicative of the condition halfway between “polarization” in which exchanges originate with a small number of nations in a hierarchical structure and “decentralization” which has no hierarchical structure in the transition of the exchange pattern. While some cold-war-era hierarchy and polarization remain, the new decentralization network characterizes the East Asian region. Specifically, the changes are indicated by the rise of China, enhanced China-Korea-Japan exchanges after 1992, expanded exchanges within ASEAN members, and activated Southeast-Northeast Asian exchanges. It is especially prominent in summit-level exchanges held from 1995 to 2004 and military exchanges (Armed Forces Minister and soldiers).

In comparison, the bilateral treaty network remains polarized even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Binding degree index that indicates the intensity of bilateral relations apparently shows that Japan-China-Korea are linked to the advance members of ASEAN while maintaining sparse horizontal relations. Thus, the current situation of East Asia represented by these political exchanges has not reached a point that completely forms a unified region. Boundaries between two subsystems (sub-regions) of Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia still remain. Japan, China and Korea reflect the relationship pattern of ASEAN + 3 countries in which each country approaches ASEAN respectively (F27-36,91).

(3) Socio-culture: Globalization, free market economy and nation-initiated policy

Characteristics of East Asian exchanges were overviewed by referring to the three categories of information distribution, infrastructure and human transfer that contain cultural contents. The results show that intra-regional exchanges in East Asia have rapidly expanded in each category since 1995 and two-way interactions are increasing, and “human transfer” is one of the most representative exchange categories. “Transport is shrinking” and “East Asia” is unified simultaneously in this category. Intra-regional “intellectual collaboration” has also expanded rapidly since 1995 forming the East Asian Networks. However, it is not closed exchanges within the region, but opportunities for collaboration and exchanges are open globally, especially to the U.S. (F129,134)

Since promotion of the intra-regional infrastructure and system is delayed in East Asia, each nation is deeply involved and tied up in the global market and invigoration of intra-regional exchanges. Although it is common in all categories, the category of communication especially, shows an asymmetric structure that concentrates overwhelmingly on the U.S. (F124,126)

2. Overview of the network analysis

Through network analysis, the formation of the East Asian region was reproduced as very abstract numerical “relations,” and the transformation process was analyzed chronologically. The results of analysis clearly indicates that formation of the East Asian region was activated around politics and economy after the 80’s and started to change its nature after the mid 90’s.

(1) Transformation, expansion and acceleration

Recapitulating from the “relations” analysis that focused on shifting of the regional center and regional boundaries, transition of forming the East Asian region after the 90’s, can be divided into the three periods mentioned below (F140-42).

(a) Alternation of the outside influence (from 1990 to 1995): The Soviet Union collapsed and the cold-war structure no longer had an impact on the network. As the relations between Russian and the Southeast Asian socialist block were discontinued, Russia retreated largely from the “center” of the East Asian region. This was the period of alternating outside influence.

(b) A more complex community (from 1995 to 2000): Around the advance members of ASEAN, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia (Japan, China and Korea) closed the distance, and East Asia rapidly increased regional unity. The East Asian unity functioned as centripetal force to deepen relations with the U.S., Australia and India. A “complex network” formed that comprised of cross-sectoral correlative chains, and political exchanges that bolted from the correlative link and became independent. Analysis is indicative of the changes of its nature in the East Asian regional formation.

(c) Expansion (2000 - ): Aggregation and merging as well as geographical expansion further accelerated in East Asia. With rapid aggregation and merging of East Asia, Japan is relatively retreating from East Asia that is moving forward to integration. (“Constellation of relation” and “Japan’s ‘isolation phenomenon’ in the four-party relation”)

In step with the shifts of (a) to (c), the center of the East Asian region is shifting and intra-regional disparity of centrality that indicates each country’s scale in a central role of the network is shrinking at the same time. (“Equalization of centrality”)

Under such circumstances, centricities of Japan and the U.S. tend to decline, but they still maintain a relatively high standard in each field. On the other hand, China and the advance members of ASEAN (mainly Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand) have increased their centricities rapidly since the late 90’s. Especially because the advance members of ASEAN have expanded intra-regional and East Asian exchanges, new centricities gradually formed in addition to Japan, China and the U.S. (F185,236-41,250,901-02)

Shifting of the center and regional boundaries found in the formation of the East Asian region is also found in the “constellation of relation” that integrates politics, economy and socio-culture and in the analysis of four-party relations of “Japan-U.S.-China+1 country” in which variants were limited to politics, military affairs and economy. (F202-05).

(2) Dynamism of the complex network and changes of its nature

Formation of the East Asian region is going to transform further accompanied by two noteworthy trends of particular exchange patterns of socio-cultural networks and independence of political exchanges.

The first characteristic is, as explained in the exchange version, that the exchanges in the field of socio-culture had been penetrated interactively into the East Asian region from 1995 to 2000.

Human transfer, exchange of overseas students, international telecommunication and Internet networks, postal mail, and intellectual collaboration (joint research paper) has their own unique historical, political, economical and social backgrounds. Reflecting each of the unique attributes and social and economic elements for each exchange field, they have created particular patterns of relations. As represented by human transfer, the centricity of the U.S. is relatively decreasing in many other fields of exchanges, while on the other hand, the center has been shifted to inside of the East Asian region and it tends to further decentralize among Japan-China-Korea and the advance members of ASEAN.

The second characteristic is, according to the East Asian complex network analysis, correlations of politics, economy and socio-culture are apparently changing over time. On the other hand, there are consistent economy-centered correlations, while the political network has withdrawn from the complex network correlation link to develop its independency development (F211-14).

Movies that are the representatives of commercial culture and the Internet that has single-pole structure centering on the U.S. have even clearer correlations with the trade. Exchange of international students boosted by state policy also correlates strongly with trade in a different pattern from that of human transfer and of intellectual collaboration. As for the economy that is positioned in the center of the link, international finance, direct investment, trade and IT-related trade have been forming a continuous link of positive correlations and the structure of interdependence in which each link further correlates through mutual chain and ripple effects (F218).

(3) Divergence from functionalism approach

With the Plaza Accord in 1985 as the turning point, Japan’s direct investment has become a driving source to aggregate the East Asian region in the economical field. In the mid 80’s, interdependence has expanded mainly between Japan and the U.S. and among the advance members of ASEAN, China and Korea. Furthermore, after the mid 90’s, the East Asian economy has been increasing its unity while depending on the U.S. economy.

Reflecting the increase of economical interdependence after 1985, the correlation analysis of the complex network indicates that “trade” was consistently positioned in the center of the correlative chain until 2003. As of 1985, trade and military exchanges demonstrated a positive correlation, and furthermore based upon the military exchange, correlations of export of weapons, summit-level exchanges and conclusion of treaties linked one another.

The most notable trend in the complex network analysis is the second characteristic that is “independence of political exchanges” following the first characteristic of socio-cultural network formation. While the correlative links of multiple cross-sectoral networks were formed, military and political fields gradually retreated from the link and became completely independent from the link as of 2000. As of 2003 when the Internet and trade were positioned in the center of the correlative link, military exchanges and summit-level exchanges were withdrawn from the link of “the complex network.” Changes of the nature of the complex network represents the current state of East Asia in which political and non-political domains have started to exercise regional aggregation dynamism respectively based on independent logic (F214-15, 218).

Many of the arguments on the East Asian regionalism that have emerged in each field after the currency crisis in 1997 adopt the functional approach that defines the East Asian community concept on the extensive line of regional partnerships that focuses on the increasing exchanges and interdependence mainly in the field of economy. On the contrary, the correlative chain of the complex network indicates that East Asia is drawing a track of exchanges that is different from a straight line trajectory for forming a functionalistic region. It means, in other words, that there is a divergence between the reality of East Asia and the scenario for functional integration of the region and community based on the assumption of development “from economy to politics” through a quantitative increase of traffic.

Compared to the political and economical exchanges in which states and corporate play central roles in forming the East Asian region in, socio-cultural exchanges in East Asia are smaller in quantity as indicated by various exchange networks. Therefore short-term fluctuation range is larger and it is difficult to grasp the tendency. However, according to the analysis, socio-cultural networks apparently started to relate to the chain of the complex network in a complicated manner while indicating both positive and negative correlations with economy.

It was conventionally indicated that backwardness of regional formation in East Asia had attributed to regulations caused by intraregional economic disparity and different political systems, and especially cultural diversity that was intimately related to historical and social factors was pointed out as one of the obstacles for realizing unity of the East Asian region. The cross-sectoral analysis indicates that dynamism of regional formation with economic and political ties has changed its nature after the late 90’s, and that East Asia started to have a certain relation in the field of socio-culture.

The key approach to “Forming Asia” was to grasp the reality of the region in a cross-sectoral manner through discussions on “What is East Asia?” The analysis indicates the limitation of the conventional approach based on the political integration that emphasizes the functional bond in forming the East Asian region. It also brings up the necessity of a more comprehensive approach including exchange relationships in the field of socio-culture by non-state actors to form the region instead of relying on the state-to-state exchanges only in the field of politics and economy. East Asia is now in the process of developing regional formation, and therefore it needs to establish a clear criteria and theory from now on. Lack of such criteria and comprehensive data are the biggest restraining factors to conduct both quantitative and quantitative research of East Asia. Therefore, it is quite meaningful to perceive the reality of fluctuating East Asia by means of long-term data analysis and graphic representation because it is hard to figure this out only through descriptive analysis. It will also lead us to be able to set a critical viewpoint against the conventional approach based upon the actual condition and to propose a new approach to analyze East Asia.