ASEAN Centrality and Regional Security in the Context of Great Power Rivalry
Policy Briefs

ASEAN Centrality and Regional Security in the Context of Great Power Rivalry

As the annual leaders’ summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations gets underway in Cambodia, Hoang Hai Ha and Le Lena assess ASEAN’s volatility and vulnerability, and how the Association might best balance its interests in the midst of an intensifying great power rivalry in Southeast Asia.

The 10-member ASEAN bloc is the third-largest economy in Asia and the fifth-biggest in the world, thereby becoming one of the most important emerging markets in the Indo-Pacific. Recently, the region has become a hotbed of strategic rivalry between China and the US, which is intensified by geo-political and economic ambitions. The US has significant economic and strategic ties in both Northeast and Southeast Asia, while Southeast Asia works as a key player in Chinese foreign policy owing to geography, historical economic ties, and the migration of millions of ethnic Chinese to the region. In the conception of great power status, Southeast Asia is widely regarded as a pilot area and regional platform.

Ha and Le detail the challenges ahead for ASEAN as the US-China rivalry intensifies. They make a number of policy recommendations in their brief, proposing that the Association try new “minilateralism” approaches and focus diplomatic outreach on other regional powers. However, they note that ASEAN’s ability to move as a bloc may be challenged if the Association is unwilling to part with its practice of seeking consensus on every issue.


About the Authors

Associate Professor Dr Hoang Hai Ha is is a senior lecturer and Deputy Head of Office for Research Affairs, Science and Technology Management at Hanoi National University of Education (Vietnam). She earned a Master of Art in European Studies from Maastricht University (the Netherlands), and a double Doctoral degree in International/European Politics from Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Italy) and Ghent University (Belgium) (cum laude). Her current research focuses on foreign policy analysis, international relations of Vietnam, and the history of Vietnamese diplomacy. She is the author of some conference papers and articles published in Asia Europe Journal, International Relations, and Contemporary Politics. She worked as Vietnamese representative in EU funded projects, including EAST – EU-Asia Security and Trade (2018-2022), Competing Regional Integrations in Southeast Asia- CRISEA (2018-2021), etc.

Dr Le Lena is currently a lecturer at the Faculty of International Studies, University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH), Vietnam National University – Hanoi. She got her Master of International Relations (MAIR) at the Graduate School of International Affairs (GSIA), Australian National University, and finished her PhD in International Relations at the USSH. Her teaching and research experience spans regional integration, research methodologies in international relations, and international relations in the Indo-Pacific. Lena used to be a visiting fellow at School of Southeast Asia (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University (USA), and the School of Communication, International Studies and Linguistic (CIL), University of South Australia.

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Image: ASEAN member nations’ flags flying in Singapore, 2015. Razak Latif, iStock.