Region:
Asia
Category:
Politics
Article type:
Opinion

Political and economic diversity of Southeast Asia (Part 1)

Region:
Asia
Category:
Politics
Article type:
Opinion
Author/s:
By Florencia Rubiolo
Publication date:
Print article

At present the region is positioned as a center of global economic growth. It has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with multilateral: China, India, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Japan

Southeast Asia (SEA) is built in the Far East as a center of rapid growth and dynamic economic development. In the past 30 years he established himself as an exporter of manufactured goods, reception center for foreign investment, while an example of enduring political integration with the absence of inter-state armed conflict between the region's countries.

The region consists of eleven states with dissimilar political and economic characteristics. Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam. Consequently, diversity is one of its distinctive features. They live in the area of government and different models of economic development, and religions, languages ​​and ethnicities. Beyond geographic proximity and a common colonial past are few elements that configure a single region of the Southeast. It began to take shape as a whole during the Second World War, but it was with the creation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries strengthened the notion that the SEA as a region in itself and began to link the boundaries of the region with the association.

Southeast Asia was one of the scenes of confrontation during the Cold War. The region was divided between the Soviet sphere of influence and American, a division that is multiplied with the Sino-Soviet schism during the sixties. The influence of international conflict shaped the inter-relationships since the countries favoring the presence of different extra-regional actors. Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia maintained close ties with the West during the bipolar conflict with the first two and the last United States with Britain, continuing the ties established during the colonial period. Cambodia and Laos maintained a neutral position until the seventies, when American pressure from the Vietnam War began to tip both States to Western sphere. With the withdrawal of the United States in the middle of the decade and the worsening of Sino-Soviet schism strengthened its ties with Cambodia and Laos Beijing moved from neutrality to alignment with the communist bloc. Vietnam was the only country since independence and even established a Communist government during the Sino-Soviet schism remained close to the area of ​​the USSR. Indonesia maintained a neutral stance until 1965 (McCloud, 1995: 231). From there a position that Western pro intensified with the arrival of Suharto to power, was adopted the following year.

The end of the bipolar confrontation altered relations between the countries of the region. The end of the Soviet naval expansion in the Pacific, the unfreezing of the USSR-China rivalry, and the withdrawal of American bases in the Philippines helped to redefine the strategic landscape. For the SEA, the Soviet withdrawal was seen as a loss of counterweight to Chinese power and raised the need for a redefinition of security strategies, focusing attention on the emergence of China as a major player in the regional sphere. At the same time, the military bases in the region lost importance to the United States, along with the lack of attention that the country lent the area since the end of the Vietnam War. A power vacuum that Beijing began to perceive it as an opportunity to increase their presence, especially in the maritime area is well settled. Since then, the SEA countries have focused their attention on strengthening the regional organization which currently comprises ten of the countries of the area-avoid total alienation from America, to engage China in maintaining regional stability and promote development of national economies.

At present the region is positioned as a center of global economic growth. It has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) Multilateral to China (2004), India (2009), Republic of Korea (2005), Australia (2009), New Zealand (2009), Japan (Comprehensive Economic Partnership, 2008) . Added to these, multiple FTAs that each country in ASEAN signed bilaterally with countries around the world.

This brief historical review of the ASEAN, is the kickoff of a series of articles that will delve into the economic and political nuances of the region, and then lead to treatment of individual countries on issues of relevance to Asia and to Latin America.

traslation: Belén Zapata