Dr David Camroux is Honorary Senior Research Fellow within the Centre de Recherches Internationales (CERI). At Sciences Po he is also an Honorary Associate Professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques (IEP) in Paris where he has taught on contemporary Southeast Asian society, EU-Asian relations and Asian regional integration. In September 2016 he was appointed as Professorial Fellow at the Vietnam National University (USSH), Hanoi. He is the Dissemination Coordinator for the CRISEA project, appointed by the Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient.
ASEAN ‘Centrality’ and the Indo-Pacific Regional Construct
Having abandoned his predecessors “Asian pivot” – including its economic manifestation, membership of the Trans Pacific Partnership – at the APEC Summit (followed by the East Asia Summit) in November 2017, US President Donald Trump revived the Quad(tripartite) Security Forum between Australia, India, Japan and the United States. At the same time he made his own Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s concept of the Indo-Pacific region, a terminology that French President Emmanuel Macron, in visits to India and Australia in March and May 2018, appropriated to underpin France’s middle power role. While most observers argued that these developments formed part of an effort to contain China, from the perspective of this paper, the most significant implication is their impact on both ASEAN’s cohesiveness as a regional association and its much vaunted centrality in regional integration in Asia. This research project addresses the question to what extent is the Association of Southeast Asia’s (ASEAN’s) centrality and cohesiveness challenged by the emergence of an Indo-Pacific regional construct, as the latest Asian regional paradigm. It seeks to examine this development in the context of the longue duréé in the relations of ASEAN members with the four countries concerned: Australia, India, Japan and the United States.
Illiberal Democracy/Electoral Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia and ASEAN’s’ Collective Norms
In the ASEAN Charter, which came into force in December 2008, the “strengthening of democracy” is listed 7th amongst 15 purposes and adherence to the principles of democracy is again listed 7th amongst 14 principles. This low priority would seem to reflect, not only the collective choice of the 10 ASEAN members, but also the reality in individual ASEAN member states. In the 2017 edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, four of the ten ASEAN members were characterized as Flawed Democracies, one (Thailand) was classified as having a hybrid regime and five (if Brunei is added) as being authoritarian. Can this only be explained by domestic dynamics in individual member states? Or is there something in the collective project, developed and articulated by the Association itself that comforts this regime norm? This historically grounded research project seeks to reinterpret the ASEAN narrative – both prior to an since the Association’s foundation – and to explore to what extent the ASEAN praxis of consensus around the lowest common denominator has made the illiberal democracy / electoral authoritarianism the de facto regime norm in Southeast Asia.