Triumph of the West? The politics of legitimacy in Asia
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The rise of China has led some commentators to claim that Asia will dominate the twenty-first century. In this article the author argues that, to the extent that countries in the region define and understand their politics in Western terms, the rise of Asia will simply continue the influence of modernity that had its origins in the West. In order to demonstrate this case, the author examines the character of political legitimacy in the region, which is founded on the concept of the state, an idea derived from the West. The modern state form has provided considerable advantages to countries in the region, bestowing international legitimacy on those that claim sovereignty, endowing smaller nations with increased political power in international negotiations, and allowing states to use the idea of non-intervention to shield themselves from international scrutiny. But the concept of the state has also defined new territorial boundaries superimposed on pre-existing political, ethnic and traditional sources of power, thereby creating new problems of legitimacy. In confronting and negotiating these challenges, Asian states have resorted to Western concepts of legitimacy, including democracy, nationalism and performance. Thus, an examination of the politics of legitimacy in Asia reveals the extent to which countries in the region are fundamentally shaped in their architecture of governance and their conception of legitimacy by Western ideas. The success of Asia in the twenty-first century will therefore not introduce a new type of 'Asian' global politics, or restore a more ancient kind, but simply confirm the dominance of modernity in shaping thought and practice.
Australian Journal of International Affairs
© 2011 Taylor & Francis. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Political Theory and Political Philosophy
Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific