restricted access Correspondence: ASEAN, Regional Integration, and State Sovereignty
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ASEAN, Regional Integration, and State Sovereignty

To the Editors:

David Martin Jones and Michael Smith argue that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is only "making process, not progress."1 In their view, ASEAN scholars and regional scholars who have faith in the development of an ASEAN community should nonetheless acknowledge that the association has not achieved much in three important areas: economic integration, antiterrorism cooperation, and relations with China. Jones and Smith's critical article deserves credit for revisiting these issues; the authors, however, have an incomplete understanding of ASEAN.

With regard to economic integration and antiterrorism cooperation, Jones and Smith are making issues out of nonissues. In other words, most ASEAN scholars and regional scholars would probably not object to the claim that ASEAN diplomacy has not borne fruit in these two areas, but this is not surprising given that they are new areas of cooperation for its members. Nor does this lack of progress necessarily lead to the conclusion that ASEAN is insignificant. More likely, the scholars' main focus is on the activities of the Southeast Asian countries in the security field, for example, intraregional confidence building and the management of ASEAN's relations with external powers.

In this respect, I have two main concerns regarding Jones and Smith's claim that ASEAN's attempt to promote its norms has been manipulated by China. First, the authors do not acknowledge ASEAN's success in socializing Beijing into its cooperative security norm. Second, this oversight has profound implications for determining the most serious security threat in Southeast Asia—the human security threat—and for understanding the complexity of this threat.

Asean-China Relations

Jones and Smith do not recognize ASEAN's remarkable achievement in improving its relations with China. Moreover, their view that ASEAN's promotion of Asia-Pacific multilateralism has been manipulated by Beijing is inaccurate. ASEAN and China have collaborated on developing a win-win approach by establishing a set of common interests to enhance peace in the region. The former has guided the latter to pursue co-operative security within frameworks such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) by [End Page 182] demonstrating the value of its approach to regional cooperation. Thus, instead of being manipulated by China, ASEAN has been engaged in socializing Beijing into its cooperative security norm.

In their article Jones and Smith do not consider the process of mutual understanding that has been developing between ASEAN and Beijing. In the wake of the end of the Cold War, ASEAN was wary of China, and vice versa. Nevertheless, ASEAN invited China to participate in forums such as the ARF in 1994 and the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific in 1996. Since then, their perceptions of each other have improved. The pursuit by the minor powers in Southeast Asia of the 2003 Declaration on Strategic Partnership with Beijing is only one manifestation of their growing ease in dealing with the mainland. A key item on the agenda includes finding ways to strengthen military relations in such areas as high-level bilateral visits and personnel training.2

Jones and Smith should have considered two other factors that also reflect the process of growing socialization between ASEAN and China. First, Beijing's attitude toward multilateralism gradually began to change a few years after the start of the ARF process in 1994.3 In the first half of the 1990s, China was highly skeptical of multilateral cooperation. In the second half of the decade, however, it began to show a willingness to address the Spratly Islands dispute in the ARF process, which involves other major powers such as the United States. Beijing demonstrated its strong commitment to this process by signing documents such as the declaration on a code of conduct in the South China Sea in 2002 and ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in 2003. These developments suggest that the Chinese had begun to learn the value of multilateralism after interacting with their Southeast Asian counterparts early in the ARF's history, and that they have increasingly been socialized into ASEAN's norm since...