Ho Chi Minh, in his eternal abode, will be savoring it with a heavenly smirk. Vietnam was the virtual host as the 10 ASEAN nations, plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, on the final day of the 37th ASEAN Summit.    

RCEP, eight years in the making, binds together 30% of the global economy and 2.2 billion people. It’s the first auspicious landmark of the Raging Twenties, which started with the US assassination of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani followed by a global pandemic and now ominous intimations of a dodgy Great Reset.  

RCEP seals East Asia as the undisputed prime hub of geoeconomics. The Asian Century in fact was already in the making way back in the 1990s. Among those Asians as well as Western expats who identified it, I published my book 21st: The Asian Century back in 1997.

RCEP may force the West to do some homework and understand that the main story here is not that RCEP “excludes the US” or that it’s “designed by China.” RCEP is an East Asia-wide agreement, initiated by ASEAN and debated since 2012 among equals including Japan, which for all practical purposes positions itself as part of the industrialized Global North. It’s the first-ever trade deal that unites Asian powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea.