Saturday, 4 February 2012

Three Critical Questions on Maintaining ASEAN Centrality

Leaders of ASEAN Member States pose for picture in ASEAN Way style at the 20th ASEAN Summit in April 2012

Opening Ceremony of the 20th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

ASEAN has been viewed as a successful regional organization for developing countries. Starting from a modest inauguration in Bangkok in 1967 with only five members, namely Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines, ASEAN has achieved its political, economic, and socio-cultural cooperation successfully through the period of Cold War and Viet Nam war, which had destabilized Southeast Asia for decades. This achievement is seen through the ASEAN’s expansion to cover the ten countries in Southeast Asia (including the five additional members, namely Brunei, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Cambodia). Not only successfully in its own integration, ASEAN actively makes significant regional grouping with Japan, China, and South Korea in 1997 to form ASEAN Plus Three cooperation. In November 2011 in Bali, East Asian Summit (ASEAN+3, India, Australia, and New Zealand), which was established in 2005 by ASEAN, has been upgraded into an expanded East Asia Summit by including two superpowers (United States and Russia). In combination, ASEAN Plus Three and East Asia Summit has been officially recognized as the core of East Asian Community. 

Officially, ASEAN is recognized as the hub of East Asian Community building. What factors contribute to the formation of ASEAN centrality? This question has been left untouched by previous studies and researches. This article will look into the internal dynamics of development in ASEAN and East Asian regionalism to analyze policy implication for ASEAN centrality.

The objective of this article is to analyze the impact of political, security, and economic cooperation on ASEAN centrality in East Asian cooperation by looking for policy impact between the two regional organizations, and to explore strategies to maintain and enhance ASEAN’s leading role in East Asia regionalism (ASEAN+3 Summit, East Asia Summit, and ASEAN Regional Forum). I will look for policy implication for addressing the ASEAN centrality and future leadership of ASEAN in East Asian regionalism. In doing so, on the one hand, the issue of ASEAN’s attractiveness for other countries in East Asia will be taken into account as well as the issue of ASEAN’s efforts to overcome its own internal problems such as human rights issue and narrowing development gap between the CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Viet Nam) and the ASEAN-6 countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand). On the other hand, since ASEAN wish to take leadership in this evolving regional architecture, the impact of integration between China, Japan, and South Korea (the Plus Three countries) and ASEAN, and inclusion of Russia and United States in the East Asia Summit will directly affect ASEAN centrality in either form of undermining or strengthening it. So, how and why EAC may undermine or strengthen ASEAN centrality will be the central issue of discussion in my thesis. To answer the main question of this article, it is better to answer this opposite question (counter-argument) to consider the cause and effect relationship. In order to complete objectives as stated above, the main question of my thesis “How can ASEAN centrality in East Asian Community be maintained?” is divided into three sub-questions:


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