Two themes at the 21th meetings of East Asian leaders, which just concluded in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, demand more attention because they have far bigger significance than the South China Sea issue repeatedly mentioned by Western media.
One is that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) emphasized once again to take the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 as a primary strategic objective and the other is that the ASEAN has determined the time of negotiations with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand on “regional comprehensive economic partnership” (RCEP).
The ASEAN strives to promote the two programs, which reflected its thirst to strengthen the strength through enhancing intra-regional cooperation, and meanwhile hoping to turn itself into an economic and trade cooperation platform in the Asian-Pacific region and an important pole in Asian-Pacific political and economic pattern.
The ASEAN will certainly face a series of political, economic and legal difficulties when walking toward economic integration, which is noteworthy. However, it more is a common aspiration for ASEAN countries to continue to strengthen them.
The ASEAN’s sense of urgency is related with the changes of East Asian political and economic pattern. Two factors influence the trend of ASEAN: The rapid development of China and the United States’ returning to Asia. The ASEAN is increasingly relying on China in economy but in military and security, some ASEAN countries pin their hope on the United States, which cannot maintain for a long time.
Reluctant to choose sides between the United States and China, the ASEAN will not be attached to any country. It should have a bigger say in international affairs and depend on itself in economy, which is consistent with the development trend of multi-polar world pattern.
With continuous development, the ASEAN will become a strong driving force for the regional cooperation and an important factor to decide the future direction of the Asia-Pacific political and economic structure.
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