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This article assesses how south-east Asian countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have responded to the ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) strategies promoted by the United States and the other countries in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the ‘Quad’: US, Japan, Australia and India). Their nuanced ripostes imply a persistent commitment to hedging and shifting limited alignments in the face of growing great rivalry and the lack of a clear FOIP vision among Quad members. In the face of external pressure to take sides, the ASEAN states are likely to keep hedging through working selectively with China and the United States. Given the United States’ apparent preference to balance China and Trump’s disregard for multilateralism, ASEAN’s ability to maintain its centrality in the evolving regional architecture is in doubt—despite the Quad countries’ (belated) accommodation of ASEAN in their FOIP strategies. However, the success of the US strategy depends on Washington’s ability to build and sustain the requisite coalition to balance Beijing. ASEAN has undertaken efforts to enhance bilateral security collaboration with China and the United States respectively. In doing so, ASEAN is arguably seeking to informally redefine its centrality in an era of Great Power discord and its ramifications for multilateralism.
Citation: Tan See Seng, "Consigned to Hedge: South-east Asia and America’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” Strategy" in International Affairs, Vol. 96, No. 1, 2020, pp. 131–148
Last updated on 15/12/2020