chapter  5
13 Pages

Asia’s competing multilateral initiatives

Quality versus quantity
WithMark Beeson

East Asia has many distinctive features that set it apart from other comparable regions, not least attitudes to regional development and cooperation. Despite a growing number of regional initiatives in East Asia, however, they are generally distinguished by their ineffectiveness. It is entirely possible that ‘institutional balancing’, like its more well-known power balancing counterpart, is designed not to facilitate but to prevent something from happening. The sort of ‘multilateralism 1.0’ developed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a lot to answer for in this regard: having established its own pattern of institutional effectiveness ASEAN’s ‘leadership’ has caused it to be replicated under the new wave of ‘multilateralism 2.0’. Consequently, I suggest that not only is China very comfortable with the idea of a rather feeble and ineffective institutional architecture, but the USA is also unlikely to do anything to change this picture, especially under a Trump administration that is highly skeptical about the efficacy of multilateral institutions even at the best of times.