The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has declared its intent to establish a fully integrated community by the end of 2015. The aim is to institutionalise a regional bloc built on three pillars:
- the ASEAN Economic Community,
- the ASEAN Political-Security Community, and
- the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
The main aim of these changes is to better situate ASEAN to achieve its core goal of ‘centrality’—a term coined to emphasise how internal cohesion can be leveraged to both advance economic progress and manage the Association’s relations with external partners.
One factor that’s likely to bear heavily on the future trajectory of the proposed ASEAN Community is the influence of an increasingly assertive government in Beijing. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is now the pre-eminent power in Southeast Asia. To be successful, the ASEAN Community will also require considerable backing from the US—the other major power in Southeast Asia.
Ultimately, it will be up to ASEAN itself to achieve centrality and thereby remain a relevant player in the emerging Asian order.