It is not the first time that an "Asian" country has made such a call. But have "we" agreed on what "Asia" is? It may sound silly to some but is China truly representative of "Asia"? If we change the terminology and use "the Asia-Pacific" instead, who is now in, and who is out? As Professor Tommy Koh has recently argued, the US is very much "in" as an intra-regional power!
If you are confused, you are entitled to be. In truth, "Asia" is an invented concept; the notion started with the ancient Greeks who declared there was an "Asia Major" and an "Asia Minor". So, you won't be wrong to say, "Asia? Sounds Greek to me!"
In more modern times, Asia generally but not specifically was "the Far East" (that's why there was and still is a "Middle East").
Asia is what you want Asia to be (and I won't further confuse you with the various "sub-Asias" such as East Asia, Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia).
To help you grasp this elusive concept of "Asia", here's an article written in 1987 by a very experienced journalist:
What Is "Asia"? by Philip Bowring
|from the February 12, 1987 issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review (v. 135 n.7)|
|1. There are many ways to dissect the globe. But by the visual geography of the school textbook, one is very easy: There are four major landmasses.|
|2. With one exception, the land masses are called continents. The exception is the largest.|
|3. Asia in simple geographic terms encompasses Europe. So if the two are to be set apart from each other, there must be sufficient common denominators on each side of the Ural line which do not exist on the other.|
|4. Even if this is the case [i.e., that Asia exists only in the negative sense of being non-European], it does not necessarily diminish the power of the name or its force as a rallying cry in the days of European colonialism. And today, it is often a handy term for describing a local situation in a way which contrasts it to a Western — derived from Europe — counterpart.|
|5. At its most basic, the word "Asia" just sounds good, appearing to give identity even if such is spurious as a continental concept.|
|6. This use of the word to suit the occasion is also found in South Asia.|
|7. The word Asia, like the word Europe, was invented by ancient Greeks.|
|8. Two thousand years later, when it began to expand overseas and over Asia, the concept of Europe had been enlarged to include the formerly barbarian northern and eastern parts.|
|9. Islam had similar Semitic origins, but 1,000 years of religious warfare between Christianity and Islam helped solidify the identity of Europe in a way not seen since Persian/Greek rivalry.|
|10. The other grounds for finding an all-purpose divide between Europe and Asia are even flimsier.|
|11. Asia would have been no more than a geographical concept but for Europeans deciding they were something different.|
|12. Asia only developed a common identity in reaction to European actions and attitudes.|
|13. The concept of Asia is to some extent sustained by Western cultural predominance.|
|14. Indeed, it may prove that the old, fixed notions of Asia and Europe are no longer relevant, just as for centuries, no one, friend or foe, saw anomaly in the fact that the Turkish Ottoman Empire straddled three continents.|