5th Lecture - International Relations with H.E. Chan Heng Chee
Date: Wednesday, 10 November 2021
Time: 08.00 - 10.00 GMT+7
Platform: Zoom Meetings & Youtube Livestream
Speaker: H. E. Chan Heng Chee, Singaporean Ambassador-at-Large and Ambassador of Singapore to the United States (1996-2012)
Moderator: Prof. Eugene Tan, Associate Professor of Law, Singapore Management University
During President Trump’s administration, the United States introduced the term “Indo-Pacific strategy.” It was a response to rising China and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). ASEAN found the US-led Indo-Pacific an exclusive concept. It seemed to be about the containment of China. And ASEAN is inclusive, so then Indonesia came up with the concept of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) which all the Asian countries then signed on to.
International relations theory argues that peace and stability can be promoted by strengthening the international environment through institution building. We call it confidence building measures, creating mechanisms. What is not often emphasized is the fact that there was no US hand in it. There was no big power hand to help bring about ASEAN.
This is ASEAN and ASEAN institution building, and it is about integration, talking to people, economic cooperation, bringing big powers in to be interested in Southeast Asia because of economic assistance and so on. We wanted to bring all these powers together. Regional organizations were mushrooming; APEC, ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, ARF, EAS, and finally, a forum of East Asia and the Latin American countries, and lots of FTAs signed. In our region, there was not an FTA we made that we did not like. We started signing FTAs quite productively.
The most important and worrisome development in the 21st century is the US-China rivalry and the consequences and ramifications of that rivalry which is particularly felt in Asia. Today, the tension and hostility is about who will dominate the world in the future. Now, how do you build cooperation in this atmosphere? We can do it in different parts, and we can start modestly, brick by brick, ASEAN must build its cooperation first.