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This book, part of a series, seeks to re-conceptualize Asian geographies; rather than a static East Asia core, this volume analyzes Asia's southern fringe, as symbolized in the trading group ASEAN and its role in Asia's evolving international relations. The contributors include many leading experts in the field, ensuring that this book will be the go-to text for students, scholars, and civil society decision makers exploring Asia's contemporary political spectrum in real time.



Asia’s Southern Tier

This introduction has two parts: (1) an overview with some comparisons to Asia’s Northern Tier; and (2) an introduction to analysis of the Southern Tier centered on ASEAN, Australia, India. In a rapidly changing Asian landscape, concentration on East Asia has the effect of leaving on the margins developments to the south and to the north. The centerpiece of the former is ASEAN. The latter is driven by Sino-Russian relations, but a second factor is North Korea’s independent strategy and the efforts by South Korea to play a central role in this tier by virtue of its stewardship on the peninsula. The comparative section explores aspects of ASEAN centrality and jockeying over the Korean Peninsula, including South Korea’s attempts to establish its centrality. A second book on the Northern Tier is being published along with this volume.
Gilbert Rozman, Joseph Chinyong Liow

Reimagining Asia: From Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific

The label Indo-Pacific is replacing Asia-Pacific as a framework for regional order. In the contest to define Asia conceptually, the broader label has strategic consequences in managing China’s rise while also incorporating the United States into an inclusive region. Various leaders have introduced new terminology such as “Act East” and “confluence of two seas.” They point to a maritime super-region with its geographical center in Southeast Asia. It serves as the intersection of the interests of at least four major powers as well as of significant middle powers. The scale of the Indo-Pacific dilutes the ability of any one country unilaterally to shape the regional order. The economic and strategic interconnectedness of this two-ocean region translates into both mutual benefit and mutual vulnerability.
Rory Medcalf

ASEAN and Asian Multilateralism


Multilateralism in East Asia: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Problems in the study of multilateralism in East Asia include: using concepts and theories derived from European experience, underestimating the regional context for managing collective action problems, and generating a warped view of the processes and institutions that guide or restrain multilateralism. East Asia is a treasure trove for the study of multilateralism, refuting mainstream conventions of transatlantic IR theory. Institutions are far less legalized, as seen in the ASEAN Way. Informal understandings underlie cooperation. Historical memory drives foreign policy decision-making. US rebalancing and Chinese assertiveness create an extremely volatile situation that is neither an architecture nor an order. Instead, the region is still searching for a design to manage relations among major powers on the one hand, and relations between major powers and weaker countries on the other.
Jochen Prantl

ASEAN-Led Multilateralism and Regional Order: The Great Power Bargain Deficit

Do smaller ASEAN states “punch above their weight” in regional affairs or is their multilateralism “cheap talk” and deluded ambition? An evaluation of the extent to which ASEAN-led multilateralism contributes to regional order finds less effectiveness in mediating conflicts of interest than expected. It has been effective in inclusiveness, legitimizing great power roles, and institutionalizing small state voices. Yet, its mode of multilateralism has grown less effective as regional strategic challenges have evolved. It has suffered from restricted scope and oversight domain, nondemanding and minimalist norms, and great powers in collusion with smaller states opting for “soft” balancing more than regional “rules of the game.” Overlapping institutions are helpful in muting security dilemmas, but they fail to regulate great power relations through institutionalized understandings about rules of conduct and conflict management.
Evelyn Goh

Southeast Asia’s Developing Divide

Stark asymmetries in power between China and any Southeast Asian state and the larger number of states in Southeast Asia mean that the nature of divides is more complex and dynamic than in the north of East Asia. Hopes that Southeast Asian states, through ASEAN, could effectively manage major power relations in a way that maximizes their autonomy and that China-Southeast Asia relations were on a more cooperative path have been dashed. What dominates is dark talk of parallels between the present regional security situation and the start of World War II in Europe and of US-China strategic rivalry again dividing Southeast Asia as did the US-USSR rivalry. The Cold War divided Southeast Asia and united ASEAN. Today, relations with China are dividing both.
Malcolm Cook

Doomed by Dialogue: Will ASEAN Survive Great Power Rivalry in Asia?

Critics write off the idea of “ASEAN centrality” in Asia’s regional architecture, and also the very survival of ASEAN as a regional community. ASEAN’s role is better described as the hub and the agenda-setter, a convening power with a normative leadership, not the leader of regional institutions. To revitalize itself, ASEAN should downsize in terms of issue areas. This does not mean removing itself from the SCS issue, but it should focus more on issues within Southeast Asia and its immediate environment. ASEAN’s marginalization—even death—from changing great power behavior has been predicted a few times before, and each time proven to be exaggerated. If ASEAN fails to adjust course now, it might not be so lucky this time. It needs a new agenda and organizational structure.
Amitav Acharya

Rethinking ASEAN in Light of the South China Sea Tensions


ASEAN is Neither the Problem Nor the Solution to South China Sea Disputes

There are reasons to question why SCS disputes should be considered “central” to ASEAN or that ASEAN should have a unified position on the disputes. While ASEAN failed to issue a joint communiqué in 2012 over the SCS issue, this does not mean the issue has “centrality” to ASEAN nor that ASEAN is useless. However, there are also arguments for why ASEAN should be coherent and responsible regarding the SCS, and signs that it is becoming more so. A better assessment of the impact of the SCS’s disputes can be made if one evaluates arguments about the purposes, challenges, and prospects of ASEAN.
Satu Limaye

ASEAN’s Failing Grade in the South China Sea

Competing claims in the SCS have led to discord between China and several countries in Southeast Asia and topped Southeast Asia’s security agenda. Yet ASEAN has failed to engage China on the problem and get it to agree on concrete measures that would roll back tensions. The SCS has thus become a locus of geostrategic rivalry between Washington and Beijing. Tensions among the principal players and the lack of progress toward a resolution generate uncertainty, creating security dilemmas. The dispute undermines ASEAN’s aspiration to retain “Centrality” in the regional security architecture.
Ian Storey

Malaysia’s “Special Relationship” with China and the South China Sea: Not So Special Anymore

Malaysia’s announcement of an “intrusion” by a Chinese ship in June 2015 may be emblematic of persistent political inertia that has resisted making difficult strategic decisions. The claim of a “special relationship” with China has been undermined by Chinese activities in the waters off Malaysian Borneo, putting Malaysia into an awkward position domestically. Political inertia is being diminished by this new operational reality, increasing concern within government. But these questions will require new and difficult answers from the Malaysian leadership and possibly a reappraisal of their broader approach to disputes and to ASEAN.
Scott Bentley

The US-China-Japan Triangle and the Concept of “ASEAN Centrality”: Myth or Reality?

This chapter examines the South China Sea disputes with emphasis on three factors: a rising China, the US-China rivalry, and the concept of “ASEAN centrality.” These three components became conspicuous in the 1990s and grew more significant in the twenty-first century, influencing each other. To analyze the dynamics of this triangular relationship in the Southeast Asian context, this chapter examines how these three issues played out at the Singapore Shangri-La Dialogue in 2015, where the most conspicuous issue was the SCS disputes. John Chipman, director-general of the host IISS, characterized the feeling as “strategic unease,” due to resurgent tensions.
Kuroyanagi Yoneji

The South China Sea Disputes: Some Blindspots and Misperceptions

Fueled by heated rhetoric, mutual distrust, perceptions and misperceptions, and nationalism, the SCS disputes have become the most extensively discussed subject on security challenges in Southeast Asia. Yet there are blindspots in the broader discussion, where closer scrutiny is wanting, and misplaced assumptions hold. Four stand out: (1) the identity of the disputants; (2) the possibility of open armed hostilities; (3) the US role; and (4) the place of international law in the search for a resolution. While these distortions by no means constitute the dominant view of the disputes, they are prevalent enough to warrant closer scrutiny.
Joseph Chinyong Liow

Southeast Asian Case Studies


Can Indonesia Fulfill Its Aspirations to Regional Leadership?

Indonesia’s rise has led to talk of regional leadership as a middle power. This article unpacks the notion of Indonesian leadership by assessing key initiatives associated with Indonesia based on their intent and objectives, their overall effect (and effectiveness), how they were received regionally, and whether such initiatives are the best means through which Indonesia can play a leadership role furthering regional stability. It considers three recent high-profile initiatives, in particular, that are associated with Indonesia: (1) the ASEAN Security Community concept; (2) the Bali Democracy Forum; and (3) the proposal for an Indo-Pacific Treaty.
Joseph Chinyong Liow

Malaysia’s China Policy after MH370: Deepening Ambivalence amid Growing Asymmetry

Malaysia and China have seen one of the most cordial and productive relationships in the Asia-Pacific throughout the post–Cold War era, one with implications beyond their bilateral ties. However, relations were tested through a series of unprecedented events in 2013–14. This article analyzes how the Beting Serupai incidents have impacted Malaysia’s evolving South China Sea policy, and then assesses the impact of the MH370 and Sabah kidnapping incidents on bilateral relations. Finally, it makes an overall assessment of the implications of these events, focusing on the developments after Najib Razak’s visit to Beijing in May–June 2014.
Cheng-Chwee Kuik

Vietnam among the Powers: Struggle and Cooperation

Vietnam has had to cope with a changed strategic and economic environment forged by China’s rise and growing competition between China and Japan. Although Vietnam’s relationship with China is its most important, Vietnamese leaders have sought to hedge against becoming too dependent on and vulnerable to China by boosting relations with other powers, particularly the United States, Japan, and India. Notably, over the past several years, Vietnam and Japan have expanded their relationship beyond the economic sphere that previously had dominated. Pushed together by the two countries’ heightened sense of threat from China, Hanoi and Tokyo have accelerated their strategic cooperation.
Mark Manyin

The Politics of “Struggling Co-evolution”: Trade, Power, and Vision in Vietnam’s Relations with China

China’s increasing presence has the potential to lead to a sphere of influence in which Southeast Asia is regarded as China’s “backyard.” In Southeast Asia, Vietnam has the most complex relationship with China. While Beijing and Hanoi cooperate where possible, there has been a deepening struggle in this relationship. The context has shifted to a “struggling co-evolution,” as the two countries are continuously searching for a “glue” to keep their relations together for both their international and domestic affairs. Beijing wants Hanoi within its sphere of influence, while Vietnam tries to manage the asymmetries to maintain its autonomy.
Truong-Minh Vu



Why Values Matter in Australia’s Relations with China

China’s soft power push for the hearts and minds of Chinese-Australians is intensifying. Growing trade, investment, and migration have punctured the national boundaries separating the two contrasting value systems. Beijing is taking advantage of more porous national boundaries to monitor, organize, and mobilize its far-flung diaspora in order to project China’s national values in Australia. Chinese-Australians are being lectured, monitored, organized, and policed in Australia on instruction from Beijing as never before. Liberal values could usefully be restated and defended by compelling the Chinese Communist Party and Youth League to cease behaving as a clandestine organization in Australia, to stop intimidating religious believers, and to allow alternative voices to be heard on Chinese community media.
John Fitzgerald

Less Geneva, More Jakarta: Assessing Australia’s Asia Pivot

While attention has been devoted to the consequences of the US rebalance to Asia, Australia has sought to define its own regional pivot. Along with Japan, China and Indonesia are the most important countries in Asia for economic ties and security considerations. The embassy in Jakarta has become the single biggest overseas post. Australia needs to guard against a tendency to exaggerate its influence in regional capitals, something the Rudd government found out the hard way when its Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation initiative imploded. Maintaining productive relations with Jakarta is arguably the toughest foreign policy challenge. No other bilateral relationship is subject to as many roundabouts. “More Jakarta” is no doubt a good thing if the quality of engagement is at least as positive as the quantity.
Andrew O’Neil



The New Fulcrum of Asia: The Indo-Japan Entente and the Rise of China

A potentially pivotal alignment of India and Japan is forming. This informal military partnership implicitly premised on countering an ever-more-powerful China reflects common apprehensions. Fearing entanglement in China’s quarrels, New Delhi is, nonetheless, cognizant of the enhancement of Indian capabilities that may flow from a tilt toward Tokyo and Washington, even if such realist calculations are still anathema to some opinion groups in both countries. Koizumi and Abe (during both of his times in office) were effective engineers of the Japan–India entente, seeing India as a natural partner. The coalescence of the India–Japan entente is testimony to the failure of Chinese diplomacy and its on-again, –off-again resort to coercive diplomacy. India is in the swing position in the emerging Japan–India–China triangle. Its strategy is to use Beijing’s fear of too-close Indo-Japan friendship to get China to undertake friendlier policies.
John W. Garver

India’s New Leadership and East Asia

Obama’s visit to India for Republic Day in January 2015 found Modi ready to embrace the USA as India’s premier international partner. Unlike their predecessors, India’s aspirational generation is not shy of closer US ties. The USA can play a pivotal role in helping India prepare against a long-term Chinese military challenge, while serving as a singular source of capital and technology. India stands to lose from any US retreat from Asia. Modi and Obama discussed reinforcing Asia’s fragile security architecture by invigorating a quadrilateral partnership. They agreed on a joint vision document for the Asia-Pacific that defined common strategic interests in the region, stretching from East Africa to East Asia, and underscored joint objectives of maintaining freedom of Asia’s maritime commons under pressure from armed Chinese revisionism.
Daniel Twining

From Look East to Act East: Transitions in India’s Eastward Engagement

Through the “Act East Policy,” India is not only striving to engage Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries but also the countries of the Asia-Pacific region in political, strategic, cultural, and economic domains. India is widely envisaged to be a major power and one of the key stakeholders in the emerging Asia-Pacific security architecture. Given India’s buoyant economic performance and strategic footprints in the region, and its implicit potential to balance China, ASEAN members and other countries of the region have begun to perceive India as a natural partner. This has significantly boosted the efficacy of India as a potential “power of consequence” in the region. It probably has the best cards to play in the region, but is yet to play them smartly.
Rahul Mishra

India-US Relations


A US Perspective

Obama’s visit to India for Republic Day in January 2015 found Modi ready to embrace the United States as India’s premier international partner. Unlike their predecessors, India’s aspirational generation is not shy of closer US ties. The United States can play a pivotal role in helping India prepare against a long-term Chinese military challenge, while serving as a singular source of capital and technology. India stands to lose from any US retreat from Asia. Modi and Obama discussed reinforcing Asia’s fragile security architecture by invigorating a quadrilateral partnership. They agreed on a joint vision document for the Asia-Pacific that defined common strategic interests in the region stretching from East Africa to East Asia, and underscored joint objectives of maintaining freedom of Asia’s maritime commons under pressure from armed Chinese revisionism.
Daniel Twining

A Japanese Perspective

Modi promised to make Japan the first country he would visit outside South Asia. He even arrived one day earlier than scheduled, and Abe personally welcomed him in Kyoto. Abe’s passion toward India is: 1) to strengthen the security position of Japan by making India a reliable strategic partner, restraining China, while cooperating with another Asian democracy; 2) to develop “Abenomics” together with “Modinomics”; and 3) to give India a crucial position in the history of Japan. Encircled by China, India is determined to strengthen her naval capability. It is a new hope for Japan, struggling diplomatically and economically for years. If the India–Japan Special Global Partnership could be advanced by bringing the United States, Australia, ASEAN and other countries together, the Japanese public sees regional promise beyond dangerous power politics.
Chiharu Takenaka

An Indian Perspective

The “US–India Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region” is to “promote infrastructure connectivity and economic development that links South, Southeast and Central Asia.” The document mentions trilateral cooperation too, indicating that India, the United States, and Japan will synergize their strengths and increase their engagement. The finalization of the 2015 “Framework for the US–India Defense Relationship” aims to strengthen the bilateral strategic partnership over the next ten years. They have also reached a consensus to jointly develop new defense technology, an impetus to indigenous defense production while contributing to India’s defense capabilities. Modi’s US visit and Obama’s return visit, coupled with the intense diplomatic follow-ups, signal that if such multi-dimensional engagement is sustained with the same intensity, New Delhi and Washington will soon realize “qualitative reinvigoration” in their bilateral relationship.
Rahul Mishra


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