In the consumer realm, Asia has always been about choices. Which smartphone, which brand of music, which kind of cuisine and increasingly which kind of car are the kinds of decisions at a consumer level that Asians make on a daily basis. There has been and continues to be brand loyalty that is often aligned with nationally favoured producers, but there are numerous examples of popular brands that have a broader cross-border regional appeal (witness Toyota cars traditionally or Samsung Electronics and K-pop music today).
Despite the historical tensions and distrust that lurk just beneath the surface of Asia’s modern prosperity, there has been remarkably little pressure or imperative for political elites or governments to make choices with regard to friendships or favourites in their respective strategic relations. Indeed, what is most striking is how the strong political and security ties between several Asia-Pacific states and the US have coexisted relatively comfortably with very strong (and growing) commercial and economic ties between these same countries and China. Continue reading »