chapter  10
14 Pages

ASEAN and multilateralism 2.0

Locating ASEAN centrality within the FOIP and the BRI
WithSee Seng Tan

This chapter examines the responses of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ‘multilateralism 2.0’—which, insofar as it concerns the contemporary Asia Pacific, refers to new regional economic and security architectures initiated and/or championed by non-ASEAN powers. The chapter contends that against an unsettled regional backdrop of strategic rivalry and rising tensions over trade and security concerns between the United States and China, ASEAN-led multilateralism continues to perform critical functions in maintaining the stability of the region. Rather than countervailing against the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as conventionally conceived, this chapter argues that what ASEAN has been doing is simultaneous engagement and hedging on both fronts with and against these two expressions. Thus understood, attempts by ASEAN to garner American and Chinese concessions to the putative ‘centrality’ of ASEAN within the FOIP and the BRI—as well as in defense diplomacy engagements with the United States and China—could be explained as a key part of the regional grouping’s broader effort to stabilize a regional order threatened by great power rivalry and discord.