Preface to the Chinese Edition of The Choice for Europe

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Preface to the Chinese Edition of The Choice for Europe
Appropriately, I write these words in China. Though my window, I look out over the cityscape of Shanghai, transformed as a result of China’s recent “economic miracle”. The most important causes of this transformation have been the decisions of the Chinese people to undertake domestic economic and political reforms. But China was also lucky to embark on its new course in an international system that has permitted, indeed even encouraged, its “peaceful development.” This has been true largely because of the existence of voluntary international norms and institutions—the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, and many others—that facilitate interstate cooperation to promote peace and prosperity. The existence of these institutions is no coincidence, but part of a trend of world-historical significance. International organization is in fact the only distinctively new political form to emerge and prosper since the rise of the social-democratic welfare state in the late 19th century. Global governance is now well-established—a widespread fact of life we all take for granted. And among international institutions, the European Union (EU) is the most ambitious and the most successful.1
At the core of the EU is its single customs union for goods, services and agricultural products, flanked by substantial common regulatory authority. Despite negative publicity connected with a decade of squabbling over Europe’s controversial “constitutional treaty” (now perhaps finally set for ratification), the EU’s last decade has arguably been its most successful. It saw the introduction of the single currency (the Euro), enlargement to 27 members, extension of the border-free Schengen zone, creation of stronger institutions for foreign and defense policy coordination, and greater democratic control over EU functions. Europe’s regional institutions—a directly elected parliament, supreme constitutional court, council that decided by majority vote, and technocratic commission—are by far the most highly developed among multilateral institutions, in superficial ways resembling a national government as much as an international organization.
Some argue that the EU is an internal giant in economic matters but a feeble foreign policy actor. They predict that the US, China, and India will be the superpowers of the 21st century, while Europe will be left behind. This view is particularly commonplace in countries like China, still largely concerned as it is with issues in its immediate region, such as status of Taiwan and relations with Japan, where “hard power” seems to loom large. But in fact this a misperception, one based on an anachronistic reading of realist world politics based on 19th century Bismarckian calculations of potential military force. A more modern (or post-modern) analysis reveals that the EU is not only a potential 21st century superpower; it is in fact already the world’s only other global superpower, besides the US. It is the world’s “quiet superpower”, which utilizes common purpose and high per capita GDP to deploy unique instruments of civilian power unavailable to the US, China or any other great power.
What are these instruments? First, the EU possesses the most cost-effective single form of power projection in the world today, which is the promise of EU membership. Since the end of the Cold War, the promise of EU membership—the EU’s so-called “power of attraction”—has played a decisive role in extending peace, prosperity and democracy to over a dozen countries in its periphery, including 12 new members, potential members in the former Yugoslavia, Turkey and the Ukraine. One need only compare Europe’s success to American efforts at democratization in Iraq to see the advantages. Second, the EU conducts a common trade policy and, along with the US, dominates the World Trade Organization, as well as bilateral trade relations with many countries. It is the largest trading partner of every country in its vicinity, including every nation of the Middle East, and trades more with China than the US. Germany alone has a larger trade surplus than China. Third, the EU and European countries dispense 70% of the world’s foreign aid. Fourth, coordinated European diplomacy—even though it is conducted on a “coalition of the willing” basis—has been effective at promoting reform in countries like Morocco, defusing crises in countries like Montenegro, and reversing the policies of countries like Libya. Fourth, Europe is the major supporter of multilateral organization and international law in the world today. 90% of European positions in multilateral organizations are coordinated. Fifth, Europe funds most of the world’s peacekeepers, and deploys nearly 100,000 of its own troops in third countries, increasingly in joint (but flexible) EU and multinational missions. In countries like the Congo, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, and Kosovo, these are European-led. Sixth, the “European model” of governance—its distinctive balance between market economics, social welfare provision, maintenance of distinctive national cultures, and a commitment to multilateralism—is increasingly recognized as a more attractive political model than that of the US.
For all these reasons, it is important to understand why the EU became what it is, and how it functions today.

The Choice for Europe as Revisionism
It is tempting, not just for scholars but for normal citizens as well, to think that such an extraordinary organization must have extraordinary causes—that is, the EU must have causes qualitatively different from those that prevail in “normal” places and times. The EU must be unique, perhaps stemming from some singular form of European cultural idealism, historical shock, or geopolitical compulsion that transcends narrow national interest. Without this extreme compulsion, such an institution would never remain stable over time. Europeans must be culturally or historically different from the rest of the world, aspiring to a “superstate” in a way that makes their experience unimaginable and irrelevant to other countries—countries that still pursue, first and foremost, their narrow “national interest”. Traditional theories of international politics, which tend to stress rational behavior on the basis of national interest, it would seem to follow, cannot help us understand European integration.
This is indeed precisely what most scholars and most European activists—and most national politicians giving speeches at “Europe Day” celebrations—have said about the EU for the last half century. Most stress its idealistic and geopolitical origins. Some argue that what distinguishes Europe is, above all, its idealistic commitment to federalism. The goal is political union, the superstate, the “United States of Europe.” Traditional histories of European integration are thus recounted as battles between grand geopolitical visions. The 1960s, so it goes, pitted “intergovernmentalists” against “federalists”, or “Atlanticists” against “Gaullists.” In our times, in US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s unfortunate phrase, one speaks of “Old Europeans” against “New Europeans.” Others maintain that European integration has really been motivated by geopolitical shocks: the desire to prevent yet another war between Germany and France after the debacles of 1871, 1918 and 1945, or perhaps the overriding post-World War II realist imperative to balance the Soviet Union. The two views, idealistic and geopolitical, are in fact closely connected, because much of what made Europe attractive to many postwar idealists was the combined promise of ending war and opposing totalitarianism of the left (and right). Both strands of the traditional historical consensus, idealist and geopolitical, hold that economic integration was simply an incidental means chosen to achieve political ends, not an end in itself.
The Choice for Europe breaks with this tradition of historical interpretation. Issue-specific national interest, it argues, not idealism or geopolitical compulsion, is the motive force of integration. The EU is no theoretical exception. It is not a tool designed to achieve some greater ideological or geopolitical goal. It is an end in itself. Like nearly every other successful international organization in modern times, the EU is designed to manage globalization through mutually beneficial interstate policy coordination. If cooperation within the EU is more developed and advanced than under other institutions, it is because the member states of the EU are far more interdependent than countries elsewhere, and because this intense globalization gives their members a stronger national interest in cooperation. Thus the same theoretical concepts and theories—national interest, rational behavior, policy interdependence, interstate bargaining, international regime theory—that have been successfully employed to explain the emergence and form of the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, or North Atlantic Free Trade Area can be used to explain the evolution of the EU.
As a work of history, the Choice for Europe seeks to provide detailed evidence to show that this is true—paralleling efforts by historians like Alan Milward and policy analysts like Giandomenico Majone. It does so by examining the causes of the “grand bargains” that have powered EU integration, from the Treaty of Rome to the Treaty of Maastricht. Since most (though not all) of the specific policies adopted by the EU over the past half century have been economic, it follows—on this issue-specific interpretation—that most of the causes have been economic as well. European countries could not develop economically without aligning their policies with global trends, just as China and other East Asian countries cannot develop without doing so today.
The Choice for Europe structures an analysis of the EU’s history accordingly, arguing that the basic source of European integration lies in a series of common economic challenges that faced the European continent over the past half century. In each case governments sought multilateral responses to economic challenges when unilateral and bilateral policies failed. The first shock was an exogenous shift in the 1950s and 1960s in European trade from North-South trade (with colonial possessions and overseas dependencies) to North-North industrial (intra-industry) trade (with other developed countries, mostly in Europe). Governments accommodated this shift with the liberalization of trade after unilateral and bilateral actions failed. The second shock was the dissolution of the Bretton Woods system and rapid increases in capital mobility during the early 1970s, which placed pressure on European exchange rates. Unilateral policy failures ushered in efforts at monetary coordination under the European Monetary System (EMS). The third was a further increase in cross-border investment in the 1980s, combined with a crisis in domestic industrial policies, which ushered in the “single market” initiative—again after striking unilateral policy failures. The fourth shock was further increases in capital mobility and tensions within the EMS, which led to the Maastricht treaty of 2001 establishing a process leading to monetary union and a single currency. A final shock, not treated in the book because it post-dates it, was the collapse of the Berlin Wall, to which Europe responded with enlargement. In each case, governments can not reverse these processes of globalization, but can only choose whether and how to accommodate them. The shifts have been exogenous, occurring for technological and economic reasons largely independent of European integration.
International economic trends, in other words, are causes, not consequences, of political commitments to European integration. A few examples illustrate the point. Consider Britain: The direction of British exports shifted from nearly 2/3 to its Commonwealth to nearly ½ with Europe—before it joined the European Community in 1973. This convinced British policy-makers that they had no alternative but to join Europe, whatever their geopolitical or ideological beliefs (which were often quite skeptical). Or consider France: No one had stronger ideological reasons to oppose centralized international institutions than France’s President de Gaulle, a former general and conservative nationalist. When he entered office in 1958, most observers expected him to withdraw from the nascent European Community. Yet he embraced it, supporting mandatory tariff reductions, a common external tariff and trade policy, a common agricultural policy, and the exclusion of Britain—all, so the documents reveal, largely in order to secure French commercial interests. Most important to him were the interests of French farmers, whose votes kept him in office and whose commodity exports to Germany (later Britain) expanded at the expense of US and other third-country farmers (and saddling the global trading system with controversy ever since). And so it was when François Mitterrand, the ardent French socialist, embraced European liberalization, when Margaret Thatcher, the ardent British nationalist, accepted centralized enforcement of single market rules, or when Helmut Schmidt, a committed (if chastened) Atlanticist, embraced European monetary cooperation. In each case, national economic interest, so the evidence in Choice for Europe seeks to show, trumped ideology or geopolitics.
Indeed, over the past 50 years, the EU has tended on balance to be, in Philippe Schmitter’s words, a “consumer”, not a “producer” of national security. Security issues have tended to be resolved first, with economic integration proceeding thereafter. The creation and the subsequent expansion of the EU were made possible because Germany was divided, NATO was created and Germany admitted, the Saar was repatriated, and later the Greek, Spanish and Portuguese dictatorships collapsed, and even later Soviet communism collapsed. Once these geopolitical issues were resolved in “one-off” arrangements, waves of multilateral economic integration followed. To be sure, the promise of future EU membership has recently been an important force promoting democracy, human rights, rule of law, and market reforms in Southern and Eastern Europe, but this process took place before EU membership was completed. Once they have become members—as the recent cases of Austria, Poland and Cyprus demonstrate—member states have proven remarkably resistant to EU pressure.
Though most critical attention has been focused on Choice for Europe’s claim that the basic motives for European integration were economic interest rather than geopolitical or idealistic concerns, the book advances two other, equally important central arguments. The first is that governments reach deals by bargaining among each other according to their relative power. But, despite the phrase “power”, this argument is not “realist.” The concept of power employed here is distinctively liberal, that is, power stems from “asymmetrical interdependence”—governments that benefit most from a bargain will give up the most to get it. This view is contrasted to the classic “neo-functionalist” view that EU bargaining is dominated by famous “federalist” supranational entrepreneurs like Jean Monnet and Jacques Delors—a view for which there is, at best, sporadic evidence. The second argument is that governments delegate or pool prerogatives in institutions when it “locks in” a credible commitment to a set of linked, mutually beneficial but uncertain future bargains. This is, of course, the classic “institutionalist” or “regime theoretical” explanation for delegation to multilateral institutions, based on transaction-cost economics. Though the commitments examined in the book are international, in fact subsequent research has shown that the most important commitments have not been international, but domestic. That is, it is not the European Court of Justice or regulators in Brussels, but national courts and administrators following domestic law, who really enforce EU rules. Overall, the central theoretical argument of Choice for Europe—often referred to as the “liberal intergovernmentalist” theory—is that the evolution of European integration is best explained by a specific sequence of three factors: (a) issue-specific interdependence explains national preferences; (b) bargaining power based on asymmetrical interdependence explains bargaining outcomes; and (c) credible commitment to future linkages explains the pooling and delegation of sovereignty.

Generalizing the Argument to Asia
One question that critics of Choice for Europe have not asked, for the most part, is whether the argument is generalizable to other regions of the world. This was a major research question for the 1960s generation of integration theorists, but there has been less sustained research on the issue today. Since Choice for Europe deliberately sets out to employ general theories of comparative politics and international relations to Europe, however, the analysis is potentially relevant to the experience of other regions. The successive enlargements of the EU from the original six members to nine, ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty-five and recently twenty-seven members—and the power the EU has had to mobilize domestic political coalitions in those countries—further demonstrates its considerable multi-cultural appeal. The EU currently reaches from Malta, just off the African coast, to Sweden at the Arctic Circle, and from Portugal to the three Baltic states within the former Soviet Union. Enlargement is currently continuing down the Balkans, including several predominantly Moslem countries, and negotiations are proceeding with Moslem Turkey. Despite fears to the contrary, there is no evidence that the EU has grown less efficient or less cohesive as a result of this process.
What many policy analysts want to know, however, is what “lessons” Europe can provide for specific regions. A reader of this Chinese translation may well ask whether EU-style institutions can or will be recreated in East Asia—or, if not, what form integration might take in the region. Here it is more difficult to use social science theory to predict outcomes rigorously, since the total number of relevant cases is so few. We can, however, ask: To what extent are current East Asian developments consistent with the theories and history described in Choice for Europe? Any answer to this more focused question must remain speculative, because each region is distinctive in terms not just of relevant causal factors, but of a host of confounding background factors as well.
One clear conclusion that emerges from Choice for Europe is that we should be skeptical of the reasons most often advanced to criticize the potential for “European-style” regional integration in East Asia. Most analysts draw a sharp distinction between Europe and East Asian on cultural, geopolitical, or legal-cultural grounds. They argue that a “European-style” model is inappropriate for Asia and unlikely to emerge for one of the following three reasons. First, Asians reject homogeneous cultural ideals of federalism, such as the goal of a “United States of Europe,” that Europeans purportedly hold. Second, Asians reject the imposition of tight centralized control over foreign policy-making, domestic political issues like human rights or social policy and “political union.” Third, Asians reject formal and hierarchical international legal institutions, sometimes referred to as a Brussels-based “superstate”, that seem to tightly constrain national sovereignty. Instead, it is often argued, there is an “Asian” way, grounded in distinctively Asian culture, which favors institutions that are more respectful of cultural diversity and national sovereignty, more limited and pragmatic in their goals, and more informal and consensual in their legal processes.
Each of these three common criticisms, Choice for Europe shows, is based on a severe misconception about the European Union and how it works, and results in a false dichotomy between a “European” and an “Asian” model of regionalism.
First, the EU is based on bargaining among diverse national interests and cultures rather than ideals of a culturally homogeneous “United States of Europe”. Many in Asia dismiss the European model of regional integration—and thus the relevance of the European experience—by arguing that Europeans seek an idealistic “United States of Europe” based on some sort of “cultural unity.” Asians tend to reject such notions, and contrast them to their own preference for maintaining national identity and cultural diversity.
This criticism completely misunderstands the European project, mistaking its rhetoric for reality. From the start, as we have seen, the EU was motivated primarily by material national interests as perceived by government leaders. Its primary motivations are functional rather than federal, and its policies focus on solving pragmatic problems that interdependent countries are unable to resolve alone. Governments have never ceased to pursue their national interests, bargaining hard over gains and losses from specific policies. In the recent draft constitutional treaty, Europeans underscore this fact by replacing their old motto “ever closer union” with “unity in diversity.” The member states of the EU remain fiercely protective of national languages, education systems, third-country immigration laws, and distinctive political heritages—over which the EU has no jurisdiction. This is in fact quite similar to the focus of recent regional cooperation in Asia, most of which has been based on pragmatic steps to promote trade, enhance financial stability, overcome regulatory difficulties, dampen piracy, eliminate border disputes, and avoid potential military conflicts—without any presumption of political or cultural unity.
Second, the EU focuses primarily on managing socio-economic globalization, rather than regulating geopolitical security, domestic political issues, human rights, social policy and other issues. Many Asians reject the imposition of a “European-style” regionalism because they believe that Europe has expanded into non-consensual management of “political” issues like foreign policy and domestic human rights practice. This is because the EU, in the view of many analysts, always was really about the elimination of war and the imposition of democracy.
This is incorrect. Successful efforts at multilateral institution-building in Europe, Choice for Europe shows, have been motivated largely by economic interest in liberalizing and coordinating economic markets. Resolving border disputes, military and geopolitical disagreements, and enhancing security were secondary considerations, which motivated one-off agreements, but rarely sustained multilateral institution-building. Far from being an ever-expanding superstate, today the EU appears to have reached something of a “constitutional settlement”, in which trade, agricultural, certain regulatory policies, and, for some member states, monetary policy, are handled in Brussels, while the remaining 80% of policies, including fiscal, spending, social welfare, health, pension, cultural, education, and most other policies of greatest interests to voters, remain largely national.
Europe is seeking to coordinate foreign policy, but it does so very much in the manner of a classic international organization, rather than a distinctively “supranational” institution—as we will see below. Insofar as the EU is moving forward to “political union” in foreign policy, it is very much as a classic international organization with a secretariat and “coalitions of the willing.” (The only striking exception involves behavior below the top levels of international organizations, which is fully coordinated.) The EU does informally insists that its members be democratic and to be members of the Council of Europe, but has never successfully regulated the internal human rights activities of members. For the first forty years of its existence, enforcement of the human rights provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights was voluntary, requiring ratification of an optional legal protocol.
Again this seems similar to recent regional developments in Asia, which have been driven largely by economic globalization. The decisive policy shift that has permitted a fluorescence of East Asian policy coordination over the past generation has been China’s switch from a policy of isolated non-market development under Mao Zedong to a policy of more market-oriented pro-globalization strategy of economic growth under his successors—as exemplified most clearly by China’s accession to the WTO. Governments have sought to eliminate geopolitical irritants to facilitate economic cooperation, rather than the reverse. Most major steps toward multilateral institution-building have been linked to economic cooperation. Examples include ASEAN’s recent move to strengthen its institutions—the ASEAN Charter—as a response to recent failures to compete economically and position itself in economic negotiations with China and Japan. Other examples include bilateral free-trade arrangements, the ASEAN-plus negotiations, and financial cooperation after the Asian crisis of the 1990s. This is not to deny that there have not been important multilateral agreements in the security area, but they remain relatively thinly institutionalized. Economic cooperation requires more complex institutions because it oversees the complex interaction of domestic social and economic groups. Asia currently has high levels of trade and investment first achieved in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, and it is slowly moving in a similar political direction.
Third, the EU is a highly decentralized international institution that poses far less of a challenge to formal legal sovereignty than is generally believed. Many in Asia dismiss the possibility of regional integration—and thus the relevance of the European example—because they reject the model of “superstate.” They believe that the EU possesses a centralized and hierarchical legal structure that infringes national sovereignty. This they contrast to a distinctively “Asian” style of regionalism, which is said to be intergovernmental rather than supranational, process- rather than outcome-oriented, informal rather than legalistic, and subservient to national sovereignty rather than invasive of it.
This criticism rests on a misunderstanding of how the EU actually works. As we have seen, the EU is based, fundamentally, on the convergence of national interests among sovereign states. The EU is not intended to be, nor is it becoming, a “superstate”, a “political union”, or even, beyond a limited set of functions, a formal legal entity that violates sovereignty more than do the classic international institutions (such as the WTO) to which Asian countries already belong. Indeed, the centralized institutional powers of the EU are, in fact relatively weak. The EU’s institutions are in fact remarkably decentralized. Its budget is miniscule, totaling less than 2% of European public spending—over which Brussels officials have essentially no discretionary control. Its administrative bureaucracy is smaller than that of a small city, which means that implementation and enforcement are handled almost entirely by national bureaucracies and courts, with only a thin supranational oversight. It possesses essentially no police, army or other coercive capacity.
Europe’s institutions for legislation and implementation are radically decentralized. The formal standard for passing legislation—a Commission proposal, a 70% weighted vote of member states in the Council of Ministers, an absolute majority of the European Parliament, and national implementation—is as difficult a set of hurdles as required to amend most national constitutions! But in fact European governments, like governments anywhere (not just in Asia!), seek to avoid embarrassing one another, and have thus developed informal rules that create an even higher, very close to consensus. Governments nearly always seek to accommodate each others’ legitimate domestic political concerns, so as to avoid domestic political difficulties—a mechanism surprisingly similar to the much-discussed “ASEAN way.” Voting is in fact quite rare, and is used almost exclusively to override a single, particularly difficult minister. Finally, the most recent EU policy initiatives—the Euro, the border-free Schengen zone, immigration policies, social and foreign policies—involve de facto “coalitions of the willing.” Individual EU governments can and do opt out if they wish. Only in the exceptional cases of monetary or competition policies does a hierarchical legal system involve enforcement by supranational officials, judges or regulators.
Overall, then, the EU realizes concrete national interests rather than broad cultural ideals, focuses on a relatively narrow range of socioeconomic concerns rather than a broad range of political issues, and its institutions are carefully limited and decentralized so as to pose only modest challenges to domestic sovereignty. For these reasons, one might assume that Asia is likely to move in a similar direction as Europe. Yet Asia obviously has far less developed institutions than Europe. Why is this so?
I believe that the theoretical model set forth in Choice for Europe suggests three, less commonly mentioned reasons to be somewhat skeptical about the progress of European-style regional integration in Asia.
A first reason for skepticism is that regional integration requires a very long time to achieve, and Asia started later. Even the modest level of European integration currently achieved has required a half century. Setting aside the ASEAN experience, which has not involved the largest countries of the region, East Asian regional integration is barely a few decades old. The patterns of high economic interdependence characteristic of Europe in the 1950s and 1960s were only achieved in Asia with the rise of Korea and China. It is striking, for example, that the Benelux countries (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) had already created a tariff union immediately after World War II, while similarly placed smaller countries in ASEAN has yet to do so. So at best we must think of East Asia as following Europe with at least a thirty year lag. During that time, moreover, some policy goals, such as trade liberalization, were achieved in different ways—notably through global multilateral institutions—so regional integration may be less imperative.
A second reason for skepticism about Asian regionalism is that the specific patterns of economic interdependence in Europe may be more conducive to integration than those in Asia. The core of the European economy is characterized by very high levels of trade as a percentage of GDP, highly concentrated intra-regionally, focused on a large number of relatively small countries, and largely in the form of symmetrical intra-industry trade, with countries both importing and exporting similar goods. This was bolstered by asymmetrical inter-industry flows of agricultural commodity trade between importing countries like Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and exporting countries like France and Italy—which displaced substantial levels of third-country imports. Overall levels of trade and investment in Asia have been (at least until recently) lower, they are less concentrated on the region, are more dominated by two large countries (China and Japan), enjoy lower and less symmetrical levels of intra-industry trade. Moreover, Asian counties, notably Japan and Korea, have shown substantial resistance to any reduction of agricultural protection, with little opportunity to displace third-country commodity imports. (European countries were lucky to create their Common Agricultural Policy before high subsidies had inflated domestic production.) This suggests that the economic potential for mutually beneficial cooperation in Asia may be less substantial than has been the case in Europe.
The third reason to be skeptical about Asian regionalism has to do with Asia’s less robust domestic “rule of law” institutions. The reader may well ask: If the EU undermines domestic sovereignty only marginally, how does it secure such high levels of compliance with EU law? The answer is that its individual member states have made credible domestic legal commitments to European cooperation, in the form of constitutional changes and legal incorporation—which are backed not just by the political will of politicians, but by the independent actions of national regulators and judges. The ultimate guarantor of European law is not imposition of enforcement by the European Court of Justice or any other hierarchical authority, it is enforcement by domestic courts and administrators—and these are only as reliable as domestic “rule of law” institutions in individual European countries are credible. To be sure, the power of such institutions is not absolute, and certainly was not assured for much of the history of the EU. Implementation of EU directives and regulations is a political act, as is the implementation of domestic statutes. Yet all are democratic and all enjoy, to a greater or lesser extent, “the rule of law” and a certain independence of regulatory authorities. The EU has been analyzed as a “network” of such semi-independent regulatory authorities.
In most East Asian countries, regulatory authorities and “rule of law” institutions like courts do not currently enjoy this sort of independence and autonomy. Japan’s legacy of one-party rule, strong state intervention, and close business-government ties makes it difficult for the state to act independently. In China the legacy of Communist Party rule and the decentralization of the country have hampered efforts to decentralize administrative and judicial power. Many poorer Asian countries lack the state capacity and democratic traditions that can help bolster credible commitments to international policy coordination. For this reason, it is unclear whether Asian governments are in a position either to negotiate liberalizing agreements or to enforce them once negotiated.

Implications for International Relations Theory
To summarize the preceding section, a close reading of Choice for Europe suggests that if there are reasons to be skeptical about applying a “European model” to Asia, they have little to do with the commonplace belief that there is a distinctive cultural, geopolitical or cultural-legal “Asian way.” In fact, culturally, legally, and institutionally, the EU is far more “Asian” than most critics believe, and thus remains relevant as a source of lessons. If there are reasons for skepticism, they lie in the domestic politics of East Asian countries themselves: the time lag behind Europe, the nature of Asian economic development, and the nature and credibility of domestic political institutions in Asian countries. From a liberal theoretical perspective, these are the things that made regional integration work in Europe—and they are the things that would need to be overcome to make it work in Asia.
There is a final, deeper theoretical lesson here. Currently among Asian international relations scholars we observe the great popularity of constructivist and realist theories. Many scholars seem to see the world as divided into these two theoretical categories: Either states act on the basis of cultural ideas (constructivism) or old-fashioned power politics (realism). There is little in between. Yet too much focus these two among the many possible theories of international relations threatens to impoverish our understanding of world politics. Choice for Europe, for example, explains European integration, the most important international organization in modern times, with almost no reference to either realism or constructivism. From the perspective of international relations theory, the book is almost 100% liberal. The pattern of economic interdependence, the bargaining power that stems from asymmetries in that interdependence, and the credibility gained by “locking in” commitments through domestic institutions are what best explain the evolution of Europe. These factors—economic interdependence, asymmetrical interdependence, domestic institutions—are the core variables in the “liberal” theory of international relations, as distinct from realist, constructivist, or institutionalist theories. They seem, if we are to believe Choice for Europe, to do a very good job of explaining developments in Europe.
But not just in Europe. As I return to the window overlooking Shanghai where I began this essay, I am reminded that the most significant change in Asian international relations over the past generation is surely the transformation in the foreign policy preferences of China. The transformation of these preferences is not just a function of a (constructivist) change in strategic “thinking”, even if (perhaps) it began that way. It is primarily the result of the modernization of Chinese society and the nature of its interaction with the outside world. As China becomes more prosperous, and more interdependent with its region and the world, it simply can no longer afford the unilateral or autarkic policies—whether in matters of economics, security or even culture—it pursued in the past. In other words, China is on its way to becoming a “responsible stakeholder” in the world system. Incentives for cooperation (and, under other circumstances, conflict) that emerge directly out of the domestic state-society relations of interdependent nations are the critical variables that lie at the core of the liberal international relations theory. And liberal theory applies to a modernizing country like China just as much as it applies to a “post-modern” multilateral institution like the European Union. This is the deeper lesson of liberal theory, and thus of the history recounted in Choice for Europe.
Andrew Moravcsik

Shanghai, China

January 2008

1 This essay also draws on my subsequent scholarly and public writing on the European Union and on Asian regionalism, which are available at

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