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With Peter Chow (City University of New York)

One of the problems in all this has been the failure of the wider region to generate a pan-regional political security institution capable of entrenching regional norms, practices and cultures for the management of geopolitical tensions. When one threatened to erupt between Thailand and Cambodia in , it was Asean diplomacy which prevailed and resolved the problem.


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The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has evolved into a successful regional economic institution, although India is not a member. The Asean Regional Forum, which does have a security policy mandate for the wider region, does not meet at the head-of-government level and has never really worked.

China’s Hollow Multilateralism and Weak Regional Multilateral Security Mechanisms

Over the past two years, an independent policy commission of the Asia Society Policy Institute has worked together on how we could strengthen the existing East Asia Summit, created a decade ago, to enhance its effectiveness as a political security institution for the wider region. In the absence of that, the brittle, usually bilateral nature of existing security policy tensions across the wider region will simply get worse. An expanding East Asia Summit, perhaps one day evolving into a wider East Asian community or an Asia-Pacific community, will not exist as a substitute for evolving and existing alliance structures.

A rebalanced Chinese economy certainly would remain a major player in the world economy and be better positioned for long-term growth, but it would also be a substantially different trade partner, both in the region and in the wider world.

ASEAN: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Beijing has ample resources to help smooth the transition, using government and directed SOE spending to prop up growth while efforts to spur private consumption take hold, and might even be able continue dragging its feet for the full five years. Note: Demographic data is presented for countries estimated to have the largest population in each region in Global Trends. Paradox of Progress. Increasingly self-reliant Japan will take on more international engagement—potentially increasing its involvement in regional and global security affairs and becoming a stronger partner of the United States—initially by building on its robust economic relations, especially in Southeast Asia.


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India is likely to insert itself further into East and Southeast Asian economic and security matters, especially if its relationship with Japan continues to strengthen. Burning in Indonesian forests contributes to global carbon emissions as well as air pollution and rising death rates from bronchial disease across Southeast Asia. Malaysia and Indonesia, like other Muslim states, face the influence of increasingly intolerant Salafist Islam on traditional Sufi Islamic practices, fueling tension in their multiethnic and multireligious societies.

Thailand and the Philippines are struggling with governance issues resulting in emerging preferences for strongman rule. Major economic shifts, demographic changes , and urban stresses —driven by ongoing migration to cities—are likely to become more significant in Asian countries in the next five years and will demand political responses.

Economic inequality could boost public dissatisfaction in China and elsewhere in the region, particularly as firms face greater pressure from low-cost competitors in the region and elsewhere. Beijing will face pressure to meet the aspirations and demands of its growing middle and affluent classes or to manage their disappointment. Climate change —through severe weather, storm surges, sea level rise, and flooding—disproportionately affects East and Southeast Asian countries, whose populations cluster in coastal zones.

Ongoing stress will reduce resilience to even modest weather events. According to Pew polling, publics in China, Malaysia, and the Philippines consider climate change their top existential threat, and publics in Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea include climate change in their top three threats. Cooperation on water issues will be crucial in a heavily populated region, with disputes over water flows among Burma, Cambodia, China, and Laos, adding to the list of regional disputes. In public health , several countries in the region are considered hotspots for the emergence of influenza virus of pandemic potential.

The highly pathogenic avian virus H5N1 is endemic in poultry in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, and has a high mortality rate in humans. The highly pathogenic virus H7N9 is also circulating in Chinese poultry, and an increased number of human cases have been seen since Southeast Asia.

ASEAN: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations | Council on Foreign Relations

Regional Organizations. Defense and Security. Other experts say ASEAN has contributed to regional stability by building much-needed norms and fostering a neutral environment to address shared challenges. Formed in , ASEAN united Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to try to reduce regional hostilities and to fight the potential threat of communist-led insurgencies at the height of the U.

7th Annual CSIS-JETRO Conference on East Asian Economic Integration and U.S.-Japan Cooperation

Membership doubled by the early s, boosted in part by changing conditions following the end of the Vietnam War in and the Cold War in With the addition of Brunei , Vietnam , Laos and Myanmar , and Cambodia , the group started to launch initiatives to boost regionalism. The members signed a deal in to create a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia, committing to refrain from the use of nuclear weapons, including on land and in maritime territories. Faced with the Asian financial crisis, ASEAN members moved to integrate their economies to mitigate future economic turmoil. East Timor first submitted its application for ASEAN membership in but not all members back its addition to the block.

The charter also originally included provisions for sanctions and a system to monitor compliance of ASEAN agreements, but those were dropped amid internal objections.


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  • Still, some experts see the AEC as a potential catalyst for intensifying economic integration. Across the grouping, more than 90 percent of goods are traded with no tariffs [PDF]. The grouping has also prioritized eleven sectors in goods and services for integration, including electronics, automotives, rubber-based products, textiles and apparels, agro-based products, and tourism.

    ASEAN security challenges include border disputes, human trafficking, natural and manmade disasters, food security, and cross-border terrorism and insurgencies.