US-China rivalry - Asean must speak with a clearer voice

It's time Asean asserted its relevance by collectively and formally spelling out the threat that the big-power contest poses to the region, and took stronger action to avert an open conflict

Without a shadow of a doubt, the dangerous downward spiral in China-US relations, coupled with Covid-19-induced upheavals, constitutes one of the gravest challenges to Asean today. Left unchecked, these developments call into question Asean's avowed goal of maintaining the region's peace and stability and the attendant decades-long "peace dividend".

This danger is not immediately apparent in the volumes of formal Asean statements that obliquely avoid direct reference to China-US tensions and typically speak instead of the risks stemming from "changing geopolitical dynamics".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2020, with the headline 'US-China rivalry - Asean must speak with a clearer voice'. Subscribe