ASEAN’s success 1.
CultureASEAN is knownto have created a unique culture of consultation and consensus, which is anethos is now hailed by many as the “ASEAN way”. As well-respectedAmerican University Professor Amitav Acharya puts it, the ASEAN way ischaracterized by a high degree of discreteness, informality, pragmatism,expediency, consensus building, and non-confrontational bargaining styles,which are often contrasted with the adversarial posturing and legalisticdecision-making procedures in Western multilateral negotiation. Bypersistently engaging regimes like Myanmar’s military junta economically andpolitically, ASEAN prevented a hardening of its positions due to isolation. 2. NetworkingASEAN now organizes more than1,000 meetings a year to discuss topics ranging from climate change to culturalexchange.
Consequently, thousands of invisible informal networks have evolvedin the region. For example, ASEAN actively engaged Myanmar and itsmilitary junta despite harsh criticism, when Myanmar was shunned by the Westernleaders. Representatives from the junta attended numerous ASEAN meetings andwitnessed the developmental strides made by Member States throughliberalisation, inspiring Myanmar to become more open to international normsand practices. Months after Myanmar was appointed as the ASEAN chair, Aung SanSuu Kyi was released from house arrest.ASEAN organisesthe ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a multilateral platform which brings 27 nationstogether – including North Korea.
Asthere are no comparable regional organizations for the northeast Asiancountries, these countries’ meetings at ASEAN summits have been a majorcontribution to the reigning culture of peace in Asia. The ASEAN Plusmeetings also facilitated early meetings between leaders of China, Japan andSouth Korea, the three countries that have traditionally distrusted each other.When Sino-Japanese relations were tense after Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimotovisited the Yasukuni Shrine in the late 1990s, an ASEAN summit in 1999 in thePhilippines helped to ease the strained ties by facilitating face-saving meetings. 3. Policy ofNon-InterventionThe West hasoften needled the ASEAN states to criticize one another when their human rightsrecords slipped. Yet, ASEAN countries have ignored this advice andsedulously avoided meddling in each other’s domestic affairs to preventoverreach of power and unhappiness.
This has resulted in a lasting peace. Thisapproach has been highly effective in defusing potentially explosivesituations, such as the Thai-Cambodia border dispute, as well as the disputeover Sabah between Malaysia and the Philippines. The resolution of thesedisputes reflects ASEAN’s facility for conflict management and quiet diplomacy.
Challenges 1. Sino-American RelationsWith the rise ofChina to be competitively on the same level as US as one of the world’s toppowers, tensions between the Americans are growing. This will continue tointensify ad long as the world’s geopolitical power continues to shiftuntil China grows to be larger than the United States.
In theory, Sino-Americanrelations are predicted to hit a peak of rivalry by the next decade. Currently,the United States and China are competing in their cultivation of economic anddiplomatic ties in the ASEAN region. Tensions aside, this is an advantageousopportunity for ASEAN countries who will stand to gain from the benefits ofAmerican and Chinese trade and investment. However, as the U.
S.- Chinarelationship turns increasingly sour, which is to occur in the new future,ASEAN countries will stand their ground exactly in the middle of both powers,remaining neutral and not choosing sides. This is crucial because in the eventof enhanced rivalry between the United States and China, ASEAN faces the mostdanger not just in terms of its economy, but the stability of the organizationitself.
Being culturally diverse and made of member states that have varyinglevels of closeness to the two large powers, ASEAN is at risk of a majordivision. 2. TerrorismIn recent years,the trend of terrorist and extremist religious or militant groups have been onthe rise. What is worrying is the number of Indonesians and Malaysiansenrolling in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the emergenceof Buddhist extremist groups in Sri Lanka that could further spread to Myanmar.It is now that ASEAN must be more careful than ever, and take extra measures ensurethat its hard-earned peace is not disrupted by the emergence of such extremistelements.
Ultimately, prevention is key in eliminating such threats. TheASEAN countries must work closely together to ensure that religious extremismdoes not rear its ugly head in the region. 3. The AECThe ASEANEconomic Community (AeC) was implemented in 2015 with the goal of integratingthe region. It had hoped that barriers to to intra-regional trade andinvestment would be taken down, if not reduced, so that the ASEAN states cangrow be more competitive in the global arena, alongside China and US.
Althoughmuch progress has been made such as the elimination of 99% of ASEAN totaltariff lines in 2010, ASEAN still faces the biggest challenge to economicintegration, which is the schizophrenic attitude of the ASEAN countries when itcomes to the AeC. As much as the members look forward to the benefits ofeconomic integration, they are hesitant to open up their own markets for fearof resultant competition between the member states, which couldpotentially harm the individual state’s community instead. Up till now, non-tarifftrade barriers still exist and any plans to eliminate these barriers have beenall talk. If ASEAN does not become more active and show progress in implementingthe AeC, its partners will lose trust in their effectiveness, and trust isASEAN’s main currency.