The talk about the new international order often misses this crucial point: There isn't one. And there will not be one until the United States and European nations free themselves from old thinking and hidden racist attitudes toward Asia.
In Asia, American and European actions perpetuate a post-World War II order built on treating Japan as an enemy and China as a client. The United States expresses gratitude to the butchers of Beijing and resentment to the democrats of Tokyo for their respective roles in the Persian Gulf crisis.
The wooing of China to prevent a veto of the 12 United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Gulf raises one of those fundamental questions that diplomats, politicians and journalists fail to grasp amid the daily minutiae of getting things done.
Why, we should ask, does a bloodstained Asian Communist dictatorship with declining economic power hold one of the Security Council's five permanent seats, with its veto power and special responsibility for ensuring global peace, while a democratic, pacifistic and now rich Asian nation with enormous global influence does not?
The answer has nothing to do with China's population of 1 billion or its nuclear arsenal, which came long after the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union used their status as victors of World War II to agree upon and dictate the membership of the Security Council, the world's most exalted political body.
China is on the council because Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to reward and bolster Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist regime immediately after World War II. Japan and Germany were to have no role in an organization formed in large part to administer the consequences of their military defeat.
A half-century after World War II, permanent membership in the Security Council is still organized on this "enemy-client" basis. While the Bush administration pursues a new international order with innovation in Europe and muscle in the Middle East, it shows nothing but outdated thinking in Asia.
The Gulf crisis has stripped bare the anachronistic quality of American thinking and of the Security Council's permanent membership. Washington pampers Beijing while scolding Tokyo for producing "only" $4 billion in aid to the U.S.-led effort.
That is to see the world upside down and to ignore the fact that World War II is finally ending. Japan and Germany have rehabilitated themselves by every possible measure. China's use of its Security Council seat for extortion during the Gulf crisis disqualifies Beijing from holding such power.
The Chinese rulers cynically stepped up their persecution of pro-democracy dissidents as the Nov. 29 vote on the use-of-force resolution in the Security Council neared. They bet that their old friend George Bush would reward them for abstaining, instead of condemning them for punishing the brave young patriots whose only crime has been to call for reform and freedom at home.
They were right. Bush met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen in Washington the day after the Security Council vote.
Paternalism and fear, the unconscious twin strands of racism, wind through contemporary Western attitudes to China and Japan. China's poverty and backwardness stir pity, while Japan's success stirs enmity. Both cloud Western policies and attitudes toward the Orient.
The end of the Cold War was celebrated a few weeks ago in Paris by the white world, that is, by the nations of Europe, North America and the Soviet Union. Japan's exclusion from this celebration went unnoticed as speaker after speaker rose at the CSCE summit to extol the establishment of "the postwar order."
But "the postwar order" was more than the division of Europe. The two big wars the United States waged during the Cold War were, after all, both in Asia -- in Korea and then in Vietnam.
Only when the winners-losers distinction of World War II is erased with the acceptance of Japan and Germany back into the ranks of the major powers at the United Nations will the postwar order pass. Only then will the reality of Japan and Germany as economic giants and political pygmies fade. Only then is it likely that Japan and Germany will take on full roles in international conflicts such as the Gulf crisis.
This is especially important for Japan, which has not been able to achieve the kind of reintegration into the international community that unification within the European Community and NATO has brought Germany.
A valuable step along the road of ending the Cold War in Asia should come next April when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visits Tokyo. He should clear the way on that visit for settling the dispute over Japan's four Northern Islands that the Soviets have occupied since World War II.
Americans wrought up over Japan's lack of responsibility in trade and economic issues may find it perverse to suggest "rewarding" Tokyo with more international power and prestige now. But the history of the past 45 years shows that this is the best way to make sure Japan lives up to its international responsibilities and really does stop being an enemy.