Economic history reminds of just how strange the recent fetishization of the free market really was. A free market based on economic ‘laws’ was always an intensely political object – constructed, regulated and protected by states. Yet investors accepted the premise because it let them ignore messy political questions and instead operate in an abstract realm of quantifiable probabilities. This pristine arena, promised and supported by finance-led globalisation and its flawed economic models, has in the last few years been trampled into a muddy field, mined with socio-political hazards. As Gillian Tett argues persuasively, we have entered a new age of volatility, in politics and society as much as in finance and economics.
What do people in Asia really think about the EU? What does Asia mean to Europeans? These are the kind of question that the Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF) was born to answer. Each year, the Singapore-based think tank commissions studies that investigate ‘the EU through the eyes of Asia’ and ‘Asia through the eyes of Europeans’. The projects gather information from thousands of news reports, hundreds of interviews with opinion leaders and an online survey of more than 12,000 citizens.
The results of this year’s studies were presented at a recent talk at the foundation’s HQ. They show that, unlike ‘Africa’, ‘Latin America’ or ‘North America’, Europeans don’t really conceptualise Asia as a regional entity at all. Instead, the rise of Asia is conflated with the rise of China, as the emerging giant dominates both news reports and Europeans’ ‘top-of-mind’ statements about the continent.