Read: “ASEAN @ 50: Challenges to Unity and Centrality” | By Aileen Baviera, PhD

on . Posted in News @ UP Asian Center

In an essay published by the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, ASEAN @ 50: Challenges to Unity and Centrality," Professor Baviera argues that “ASEAN’s major accomplishments in the past fifty years far outweigh its shortcomings and constraints” and reviews its relationship with China and the United States.


There are too many conflicts within and among its members that remain unresolved. The principles of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs have been too privileged in practice, at the expense of effective cooperation and integration. Organizationally, ASEAN is too process-oriented while inadequate in achieving timely results and impact. Consensus among member-states remains shallow even on certain critical issues that require solid agreement. The absence of a common foreign policy and differences in security priorities and threat perceptions continue to stand in the way of a true political-security community….”


“What then are the outcomes of ASEAN cooperation, from the vantage point of Southeast Asia? These are the following: (1) peace among neighbors, some of whom have deep historical animosities, with such peace enabling each one to focus on economic and social development for national resilience; (2) economic resiliency, withstanding shocks such as the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997-98; (3) relative autonomy from domination by any external power, considering the region’s history of colonial control and proxy conflicts; (4) agreement on certain fundamental principles in the conduct of relations with the outside world including respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs, but counteracted by open regionalism, inclusiveness, moderation and a collective aspiration to non- alignment and balance of influence.”


“...the US role in the region has been one of a regional balancer, and as a provider of security and economic advantages……[f]or the most part, Southeast Asian governments’ worries concerning the US role have been about it not being engaged enough or interested enough, rather than about whether it is too interventionist.”


As China gears up to become a major actor in the regional and world stage, will it be a benign and responsible power – indeed a partner in peace and development, a provider of public goods for the region, an upholder of international norms and law? Or will it be a power that will leverage its size and strength to assert influence or control, to protect what it sees as its own interest but at the expense of its neighbors’ sovereignty….

To try to do both, as China sometimes appears to do, will be counterproductive, each role mutually cancelling out the intended effect of the other. In an earlier article (CQISS, 2015), I wrote that “in the perceptions of some countries in its immediate neighborhood, China offers one open hand of cooperation and at the same time a fist ready to pound.

The recently published essay was written for the 90th Anniversary of Southeast Asian Studies and Overseas Chinese Studies in Jinan University, Guangzhou held last 15-16 July 2017. 


Dr. Aileen SP. Baviera is Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman. She specializes on and writes about contemporary China studies, China-Southeast Asia relations, Asia-Pacific security, territorial and maritime disputes, and regional integration. The editor in chief of the journal, "Asian Politics & Policy," she is the author of many academic publications, including the "The Domestic Mediations of China's Influence in the Philippines," which appears in Rising China's Influence in Developing Asia, edited by Evelyn Goh and published by Oxford University Press. She completed her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of the Philippines Diliman. VIEW FULL PROFILE. 

The UP Asian Center offers M.A. programs in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D. program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Get an overview of these programs. The Asian Center also houses a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia. It has published several books and monographs, and hosts or organizes various lectures and conferences.  

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