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US, China rivalry: Challenges to ASEAN | Essay Material for CSS

US, China rivalry: Challenges to ASEAN | Essay Material for CSS
Written by Guest Author

Polarizing ASEAN would definitely make a way for only one power whether for US or China

By: Hamna Ghias Sheikh

The changing geopolitical and geo-economics sphere of the world has brought forward the two of the most prominent regions typically South Asia and South East Asia. For closer collaboration between the regional countries, various organizations have been formed in this globalized world. Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is one of the prominent organization which was founded back in 1967 by the countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

The main objective of this organization were to enhance the economic, social and cultural development in the region in all the effective ways and means. The promotion of regional peace and stability with the mutual cooperation among all the member states is the main objective of ASEAN.

The confidence building and enhancing the diplomatic strategies in the Asia-Pacific region is the foremost priority of ASEAN. Apart from member states of ASEAN, the super powers like US and China are also collaborating for developing the region on the preventive diplomacy.

The principles of ASEAN are more based on norms and values where the actual stability of the region from all the external threats lies above all. Although, every member states has its own interest but the continuous efforts of the countries especially China and US with reference to becoming geopolitically dominant is causing various repercussions on ASEAN in socio, political and economic dimensions.

21st Century has been marked as the emergence of China as a dominant super power. It has become prominent as a global cultural and political force. China being the most important economic partner is a game changer for ASEAN in many different dimensions. The relationship of China with ASEAN is based on the two particular points (1)increasing bilateral ties with each of the member states of ASEAN (2)its collective relation with ASEAN as a whole. On the other side, US is playing a power balancing role in Southeast Asia.

US has its interests based on countering terrorism and reaching the maritime security in Southeast Asia in the form of increasing maritime activities in Malacca Strait, Singapore Straits and South China Sea. Southeast Asia is of strategic interest for US because this particular region is gaining a wider prominence on the global map. US grand strategy is not only to protect its own homeland but to have external hegemonic control over the geostrategically important areas of the world.

With current changing dynamics of the globe and the spread of Covid19 as deadly pandemic has shifted the paradigm of global business competitiveness where China and United States are termed as the strongest rivalry for each other. ASEAN has become a matter of interest specifically for both of these super powers making it quite challenging for this regional organization in many ways. Firstly, ASEAN has been considered to be a platform for engaging the big powers and leaving the rest of the regional countries.

For example, Malaysia and Nepal are considered as the very small players in ASEAN. Secondly, the member states are considered as the more US aligned which makes the complicated relationship of member states with China. The mismanagement of relationship of ASEAN member countries under the rivalry of US and China’s balance of power in the region would ultimately question the credibility of ASEAN as the regional cooperation unit. Thirdly, when it comes to the point of making the big choices so the current timeframe member countries leaders are not capable of taking decisions or making a big choices on socio, political and economic perspective.

Since many of the leaders are not prepared for facing the situations. The dominant role being played by US and China has shaped the ASEAN policies in their own direction for the purpose of fulfilling their vested interests. The continuous US engagement militarily and economically in East Asia and in the areas of South China Sea along side China’s involvement in becoming a regional hub has left behind all other member states of ASEAN to look forward upon two of these major powers. Fourthly, the competition between US and China from geopolitics to geo-economics is seen in many fronts such as US efforts in promoting free and open Indo Pacific for sustaining an open economic regime. Since maintaining the multilateral relations with countries of Indo-Pacific is in accordance to the grand strategy of US.

It has always been said that policy for every state plays an important role while devising its relationship with other countries. With reference to US, President Donald Trump has increased the uncertainty for the country for the purpose of becoming regional leading country. The uncertainty and credibility of US is now being questioned in a current timeframe all because of the country’s leadership. China’s skepticism lies with all other ASEAN countries as the rest of regional countries want China to deal with regional prosperity but China is looking forward to US in all the dimensions. It has been said that US and China will make ASEAN more coherent as the countries will better look for self-reliance rather than depending on other countries. Polarizing ASEAN would definitely make a way for only one power whether for US or China. If the same scenario would exist, so ASEAN would only be a voice for super powers and it would not survive if rivalry between China and US will exist in a near future.

Article Source: The Nation

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