The Search for Regional Architecture: The Role of ASEAN as Strange Attractor

Abstract: There is one other important reason for arguing that a deep comprehensive ASEAN integration is indispensable under the current network of initiatives on external relations. Using ASEAN as a “strange attractor” for an East Asian integration is unlikely to bear fruits unless ASEAN is willing to set example. Even a deeply integrated ASEAN may still find it difficult to persuade the rest of East Asia on the merits of East Asian integration, given the very limited muscle of ASEAN in terms of its external trade and investments. Being a recipient rather than a donor of official development assistance ASEAN is handicapped in playing the role of champion in trade and investment liberalization. What ASEAN most realistically can do is to serve as the “hub for post offices” while major Asian countries seek to put aside differences in order to promote economic co-operation and integration. ASEAN has once missed the opportunity of playing the role of a champion of the ambitious regional integration of APEC. It should avoid committing the same mistake while endeavoring to promote an East Asian integration or even an Asia-wide integration.