Will ASEAN continue as a key player in 2030?

By Amitav Acharya

What will the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) look like in the year 2030? As a durable and successful regional grouping in the developing world, ASEAN is a force for stability and cooperation in Asia. But can we take its longevity and success for granted?

ASEAN’s irrelevance or even death has been predicted several times before. At its birth in 1967, few people thought it would live to see another decade, given that the two previous attempts at regional cooperation in Southeast Asia — the Association of Southeast Asia and the MAPHILINDO (Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia) concept — ended within a few years after their creation.

The Malaysia-Philippines dispute over Sabah in 1969, the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Indochina in 1975, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979, the end of the Cold War in 1991, and the outbreak of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, have all been seen as critical blows to ASEAN.

But ASEAN not only survived, it actually grew a bit stronger each time. So there is precedent, and hope, that ASEAN will be around in 2030.

But surviving is not the same as thriving. In 2030, ASEAN might keep plodding on, but will it be a key player in regional peace, stability and prosperity in Asia — a role that it currently enjoys? Here, the question becomes more difficult to answer.

The answer depends on three key questions. First, what will ASEAN’s relations be with the great powers? Read more of this post

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