(Re)Negotiating East and Southeast Asia: Region, Regionalism, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

By Alice D. BA | Go to book overview

3
The Ideas That Bind: Negotiating ASEAN’s Ways

The main reason Southeast Asia—the Balkans of Asia—has held
together is through such consensus-building.

Kishore Mahbubani, 1997

This chapter gives attention to intervening processes and interactions that both reinforce and give greater clarity to ideas and arguments first established in 1967. In particular, it highlights a process of argument and debate that forms a part of a larger consensus-building process. This process will be key to translating perceived challenges into more collective outcomes. Moreover, in that this process of argument and debate invokes and keeps prominent particular ideas over others, they will not only clarify and reinforce identified ideas and connections but, in so doing, those ideas will also increasingly become “regional” and part of a larger shared expression of “ASEAN-Southeast Asia.”

Chronologically, this chapter picks up where the last left off, namely, the creation of ASEAN in 1967. It gives particular attention to ASEAN’s founding arguments and ideas—resilience arguments that linked nation to region, fragmentation to intervention, and regional organization to selfdetermination—and how these arguments and ideas continued to provide centralizing forces in the face of still-strong centrifugal tendencies. Again, if the problem is defined as one of division, then the appropriate solution must be unity. However, as in 1967, these ideas and arguments were also far from having automatic effect and instead continued to rely on activist promotion and activist support from key actors in ASEAN’s first decade.

To illustrate states’ ongoing search for consensus about regional ideas and regional relations, this chapter details three early ASEAN debates between 1967 and 1978. Two are political-security debates—the first focuses on a 1971 proposal for regional neutralization; and the second, about how best to respond to a newly reunified Vietnam in 1976 and then its intervention into neighboring Cambodia in 1978. The other is economic, specifically regional trade liberalization. These debates reveal the centralizing role played by

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