Politics and International Relations
Power is an integral component in maintaining international order. Nevertheless, there is lacuna in the scholarly debate over how the order is structured in the regions that encounter intervention by great powers while also not benefiting from the security provided by the international order. How do such regions manage regional security in the absence of the commitments by great powers to maintain the international order in the region?
This paper argues that these regions construct a regional order to sustain security stability not through power, but by the use of political legitimacy to collectively mitigate the regional rivalry and prevent intrusions by the great powers. The regional security order in East Asia has been divided into two regional security mechanisms—the US-led alliance network and the ASEAN-led multilateralism. In this context, ASEAN has established the regional security order in Southeast Asia as the core of its institutional rules and norms, the so-called ASEAN Way which reflects the desire to maintain the regional political autonomy and limit great power involvement. Furthermore, ASEAN has diffused its rules and norms through ASEAN-led institutions, such as ARF, EAS, and ADMM-Plus. Instead of competing with the regional order supported by US military and economic influence in East Asia, ASEAN has tried to co-exist with the US-led order, emphasizing ASEAN multilateralism as political legitimacy for decision-making processes. This has contributed to shaping the regional decision-making procedures, and has prompted the great powers to pay heed to the norms of the ASEAN-led multilateralism.