One of the underlying ideas animating this volume has been that it makes sense to think of parts of the world in regional terms. For readers in Western Europe and even North America this may not seem such a surprising idea, but throughout Southeast Asia’s rather short history, the possibility that the region might become a coherent entity, much less an effective international actor, would have struck many observers as fanciful if not absurd. For some, it still does (Jones and Smith, 2007). There are, as we have seen, ample grounds for scepticism: there are many issues that divide the nations of Southeast Asia. Indeed, there are few compelling commonalities — other than self-preservation in the face of forbidding economic and strategic challenges — to unite them. And yet the reality is that the principal expression of political solidarity, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), remains the most enduring organization of its kind in what is still rather patronizingly referred to as the ‘developing world’. The recently concluded ‘ASEAN Charter’ was intended to consolidate ASEAN’s position at the centre of regional political affairs and make it a more effective international actor (see Beeson, 2008b).
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- Southeast Asia in the Long Run
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- Chapter 17