ASEAN Centrality toward the New Regional Equilibrium

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ASEAN Centrality toward the New Regional Equilibrium

Oleh : Khodijah


China, being the emerging power in the post-global crisis world, has earned itself a prominence among its region, especially in East Asia. However, the South China Sea dispute has made some countries to readjust its view towards China. It has exerted more firm and assertive stances responding to the moves that it views as threat to it in terms of security and political matters. ASEAN stepped in and tries to be an instrument for the settlement of this dispute. This review is written to assess the article[1] written by Syamsul Hadi explaining how Indonesia’s involvement in ASEAN’s strategy in dealing with the South China Sea dispute affect Indonesia-China relations, currently and in the future. The structure of the review will summarize Hadi’s writing, compare it with two other similar writings as a basis for the analysis, and a concluding remark.

Indonesia’s Go with ASEAN’s Strategy in Dealing with East Asia’s Regional Issue

The dispute taking place in the South China Sea is not a new stir for it Cheap Jordans had been ongoing for a long time.[2] The conflict dilated not only between ASEAN member countries but also between ASEAN and China.[3] At first the conflict had been muffled by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in South China Sea (DOC) between ASEAN and China in 2002, but heightened again by Malaysia and Vietnam’s proposal to extend their continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles into the disputing area in 2009.[4] The multilateralization of this issue is inevitable despite China’s preference to solve this issue bilaterally with each conflicting state. Because China has been deemed as an emerging strong and potentially aggressive country, Vietnam and other countries in ASEAN performed lobbies to involve USA in the arrangements. The USA raised this issue in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi, 2010, with the result 27 paticipating countries agreeing to solve the issue multilaterally.[5]

Firstly, Hadi argues that China’s rise brought a shift in the international arrangements, thus making other powers to play a balancing role against it.[6] This goes in line with the balance of power theory which states that every sudden changes in the world’s power distribution will invite counterbalancing actions. The reason why the countries in ARF wholesale nfl jerseys choose to impose a multilateral approach upon the South China Sea dispute is the advancing of military power and assertive actions.[7] What justifies these states’ view on China is its firm stance, which is opposing “any country having nothing to do with the South China Sea issue getting involved in the dispute. This will only complicate rather than help solve the issue”[8]

Secondly, Hadi moves on to Indonesia as one of the actors who supports the settlement strategy conducted by ASEAN, and by the settlement strategy he means the involvement cheap China Jerseys of USA in the matters. Regarding the South China Sea issue, the assumed president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated that Indonesia should make the resolving of this issue a priority, because Indonesia clearly has interest in the troubled waters of South China Mobile because China’s claim over Spratly islands threatens the gas-rich Natuna islands.[9] Hence there is no choice for Indonesia but to emphasize the implementation of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) 2002.

Thirdly, Hadi answers the question on how the mentioned strategy affect the current and future bilateral relation of Indonesia and China. The relationship between China and Indonesia has been improving since Soeharto era. The leaders of the two country often exchange visits, and there is an increasing rate of trade and investment between the two countries.[10] There has been controversy here and there about the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) in Indonesia for it resulted in the continual trade deficit, industrial downturn, and increasing unemployment.[11] According to Natalegawa Doctrine, a foreign policy perspective introduced by Marty Natalegawa, there should be a dynamic equilibrium or an absence of domination from the great powers. It stresses the importance on shifting the international security paradigm and increasing economic cooperation. That becomes the cornerstone for Indonesia to support USA’s active involvement in the political and security arrangements in East Asia. Marty himself argues that by moving closer to another great power in the world, Indonesia will not harm its relation with China.[12] That is shown, according to Hadi, when Chinese minister, Wen Ji Bao visited Indonesia in April 2011, showing his country’s intention on continuing its cooperation with ASEAN by offering to assist land transportation and development acceleration in ASEAN. The shifting of China’s issue focus from ‘hard’ politics like security to ‘soft’ politics like economic cooperation indicates China’s acceptance towards ASEAN, including Indonesia’s role in bridging the great powers in the region.

Comparison and Analysis

The problem lies in the writing of Hadi is that it only denotes how the ASEAN strategy regarding South China Sea dispute does not ruin Indonesia-China relations by stating that China offers economic commitment even after it responded firmly about ASEAN countries’ partake in the issue. However, Hadi’s writing does not provide a cause or a factor why the situation is the way it is now. In order to review Hadi’s writing, firstly we can compare it with an article by Tan Truong Thuy, “South China Sea Dispute: Implications of Recent Developments and Prospects for Coming Future”.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Mainly, Thuy’s writing talks about a softened approach done by China after the ARF, where the assumed Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton conveyed a speech proposing freedom of navigation, open access to Asia‘s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China cheap MLB Jerseys Sea.[13] Clinton’s move seemed to inflict a force that make China re-calculate its position.[14] It sparked debates among Chinese military strategist that for the time being, continuing firm stances towards the claim was not the wisest move for it would trigger conflicts with USA’s neighboring countries.[15] That follows with Hu Zhengyue, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister, administers a new concept of security in which China will play a “constructive role”.[16] He also stated that China will put its best efforts in resolving important international and regional issues without the use of military force, but by cooperation.[17] What Hadi misses and Thuy does not is the process on how exactly China release the emphasizing on security issues and move on to economic cooperation. With USA standing beside them, all ASEAN countries, including the claimant states and non-claimant states have a power that can be used to face China, a great power they cannot face alone. In fact, as Hadi portrays in his article, China offers a commitment of economic cooperation instead of threatening with more assertive moves.

We can also compare Hadi’s article with an article by Lalita Boonpriwan, titled “The South China Sea dispute: Evolution, Conflict Management and Resolution”. Boonpriwan argues that the settlement of this dispute is complex and cannot be resolved through only an approach, for the claims are based on varied motives and reasons.[18] She also remarks the importance of ASEAN’s role in the settlement, because it has been involved in the issue since 1990.[19] However, the claimant states have to choices in order to resolve the dispute: through military force or negotiations. Since ot all claimant countries hold the possession of equal capabilities, particularly in terms of military power, multilateral negotiations is the only choice.[20] This is when USA plays its role as a generator of feeling of security between China and ASEAN and vice versa.[21] She also states that Confidence Building Measures are important in the settlement, where agreement is an important instrument to build trust and limit escalation of the conflict.[22] As we can see the 2010 ARF in Hanoi produced documents containing action plans to resolve the conflict. Making USA playing an active role in the settlement can bring about a sense of security amongst the disputing states. China has built more capabilities that cannot be compared with the claimant states’ capabilities, thus USA is needed to build trust and make the negotiations work. We can see the result as depicted in Hadi’s writing: China’s shift of focus from security to economics.



From the comparisons and analyses above, we can conclude that there are some points that are missing in Hadi’s article addressing how ASEAN’s strategy in dealing with South China Sea dispute will not exacerbate the relations between Indonesia and China. It is in fact is not harming the relations, but the lacking of the explanation behind that leaves the readers at an unanswered question on why it is so. If that part was explained by Hadi, then his article can be very comprehensive for it provides everything: the overview of the dispute, ASEAN and how it affects Indonesian foreign policy, and how Indonesia responded in the changing circumstances of the post-global-crisis world.



[1] Syamsul Hadi, “Indonesia, ASEAN, and the Rise of China: Indonesia in the Midst of East Asia’s wholesale nfl jerseys Dynamics, in The Post-Global Crisis World”. International Journal of China Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2 (2012), p. 151-166.

[2] Ibid., p. 157

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., p. 158

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Carlyle A. Thayer, “The United States, China and Southeast Asia”, in Daljit Singh (ed.), Southeast Asian Affairs, in Syamsul Hadi, Loc. Cit., p. 158

[9] Syamsul Hadi, Loc. Cit., p. 159.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., p. 151

[12] Ibid., p. 161

[13] Trang Truon Thuy. “South China Sea Dispute: Implications of Recent Developments and Prospects for Coming Future.” Center for East Sea (South China Sea) Studies, (2011) p. 4

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., p. 5

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Lalita Boonpriwan, “The South China Sea dispute: Evolution, Conflict Management and Resolution.” The International Conference on International Relations, (2012) p. 13

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., p. 13-14

[21] Ibid., p. 14

[22] Ibid., p. 6



Boonpriwan, Lalita. “The South China Sea dispute: Evolution, Conflict Management and Resolution.” The International Conference on International Relations, (2012) p. 1-17

Hadi, Syamsul. “Indonesia, ASEAN, and the Rise of China: Indonesia in the Midst of East Asia’s Dynamics, in The Post-Global Crisis World.” International Journal of China Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2 (2012) p. 151-166.

Thuy, Trang Truon. “South China Sea Dispute: Implications of Recent Developments and Prospects for Coming Future.” Center for East Sea (South China Sea) Studies, (2011) p. 1-17


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