RSIS Workshop on “Resilience and Change: ASEAN in a Fracturing World”
About the Workshop
Southeast Asian leaders have been united in calling for increased cooperation among the great powers for half the past decade, yet virtually everyone observes that tensions have only increased. If a global pandemic could not provide common cause for the superpowers to cooperate, then the pessimistic conclusion would be that multilateral cooperation – long predicated on great power support – is in dire trouble. Multilateral cooperation has increasingly turned to smaller formats such as ‘minilaterals’, which might provide the building blocks for restoring broader multilateral frameworks in the future. Yet to the extent that these become exclusive clubs, fragmentation could worsen. The worst-case scenario is that interdependence – the primary check against interstate conflict – unravels under these conditions.
ASEAN and the wider region have benefitted from globalisation and international trade in the post-Cold War era. Globalisation has increased people-to-people connectivity and given states direct stakes in other states’ prosperities – an important stabilising dynamic. Economies such as Singapore – deeply connected with the global economy – have a strong stake in a globalised world through trade and investment.
Recent global events, however, have dealt a blow to economic globalisation and free trade. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated how vulnerable supply chains are. The US trade war with China, including sanctions against third parties, as well as Chinese sanctions against countries such as Australia and Lithuania exemplify the potency of weaponising trade and financial connectivity. The Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as great power rivalry in the Asia-Pacific are compounding such challenges and are driving a global debate and re-assessment of the trade-offs of economic interdependence as well as energy security.
How can Singapore respond to such trends and best cooperate with its ASEAN neighbours to mitigate against them? As a small city-state with few natural resources and a strong stake in a globalised world, Singapore has an immediate interest in addressing such challenges and think about mitigation strategies. This workshop aims to map and better understand current dynamics and trends and asks what this means for the ASEAN region. It will critically evaluate Singapore’s and ASEAN’s policy options and propose concrete measures. Distinguished experts will raise awareness of current challenges and propose and critically discuss ways to mitigate against the consequences of decoupling and limit deglobalisation.