Unlike the subcontinent, East Asia is supposed to be pragmatic. While political passions continue to derail the Indic South Asia, wealth creation and order have prevailed in the Confucian East according to widespread perceptions about our region.
There are other ideas about Asia that have gained intellectual currency in recent years. Regional cooperation in East Asia has raced ahead, while South Asia remains the perennial laggard.
East Asia has put its territorial disputes aside to focus on economic integration, while South Asia can't overcome the political obstacles to regional cooperation.
China, we are often told, has solved all its territorial disputes except that with India; the implication being that India is politically backward in pursuing impractical territorial claims.
It now turns out that China is even more obsessed with territory than India. While it is true that China has resolved most of its boundary disputes on land, Beijing's territorial conflicts in the shared seas with its maritime neighbours have rapidly escalated in the last two years.
As a result, the regional perception of China has dramatically changed. Until recently, Beijing was seen as the master of "soft power", effortlessly seducing the region into accepting China's primacy in Asia.
China is now perceived by many as a bully that makes extravagant territorial claims and tries to secure them by deploying its growing military might.
China's new assertiveness has sent most of its neighbours scurrying for cover and asking the United States to restore the balance of power in the region.
By declaring its territorial claims as part of China's "core interests" — which means there can be no negotiated compromise — Beijing seems ready to risk many of the political and diplomatic gains it has won over the last three decades.
Although Beijing finds maritime tensions rising with Tokyo, Manila and Hanoi, it is not at the centre of all current territorial disputes in East Asia. Japan's maritime disputes with South Korea and Russia have also come to the fore in recent weeks.
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