During the 16th through 18th centuries, Asia was viewed by the West as a dead lion—no political and economic power to be valued. The Southeast Asia region, later created as Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), was under controlled by European power, except Thailand.
Things have changed.
The growth of economy and political landscape leads Asia to be a hot spot region on the global politics agenda.
The rise of China, the decline of Soviet reunion, the growth of ASEAN, and global politics trends have change the views among the Asian leaders toward security issues.
“We should take action to issues. If we keep silence, it means nothing happen to us, said Quangminh Pham, professor of history and politics at University of Social Sciences and Humanities based in Hanoi, Vietnam.
As the up-rising of disputes in Asian region, mainly with China, the region becomes a spotlight for the security and political observers.
According to M. Alagappa, the Asian security landscape is under some main features. As mentioned earlier, some Asian nations were colonized by the West’s iron fist. Each state was working hard to be free.
Asia has learnt from the lesson. They have to be strong. Their security becomes a priority. They do not want to let other country take power on their own. They have to protect the independence which represents the nation’s value and norm. In addition, Asia is keeping and promoting peace and prosperity in their domestic state and global level. It is somehow called security policy. How does one nation design strategies to make sure their state and the world they prioritize are safe places? The political survivals after the World War’s net make Asia look into a long distance perspective. Less-power states have to connect to others or superpower country to be safe. It is so-called “self-help”. It will be dynamic and more changes when giants, China and India, challenge their military powers. Asia, a mountain of two giants!
The new age of economic priority, nations need money to be safe. “When you have money, everything is yours”. This hypothesis leads the Asia fighting for survival. Asia is a place for 4 billion people, the largest and most populous of earth’s continents. Global economic and financial crisis will be a sensitive spot to keep the region in safe environment. People would remember how 1997 Asia’s financial crisis affected the region security.
China seems to be upgrading its military power while it is enjoying the economic growth year by year. At least $100 million was spent every year for military modernization and transformation. It is not a coincidence. The involvement of
sovereignty disputes with four ASEAN nations, Japan, South Korea is a challenge for giant China. The security in the region is a bit hot. The situation forces Asia nationswho are afraid of China seeking for new sources to be secured. The security dilemma happens. The rise of South China Sea raises the maritime domain. Recently, the tension between China and Vietnam over the dispute shows the case. This is how security really means for a nation.
It is true that Asia had not has any strong organization for maintaining and promoting security for the whole region unlike the West has North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Even though there are some countries facing the traditional security issues, specific with China, the Asia region also appears the up-rising so-called non-traditional security issues. After the 9/11 attack, terrorism becomes a new challenge for Asia. Islamic countries like Indonesia, the biggest Islamic country in the world, are fighting with terrorism movements.
Human trafficking threats the region’s security. Cambodian workers are abusing by Thai employers in sea fishing industry. People smuggling in China is increasing due to the one-child policy.
To recap the Asia region, particularly ASEAN, is facing two series of security issues which are traditional and non-traditional.
The leaders should take win-win solution together for Asia. When taking about Asia in Asian geography, we diverse, yet we are one on the global states. We should value Asia values which are representing our norms and identities. The event of South China Sea or East China Sea is portrayed as Asian dispute from Western viewpoint. The non-Asia nations will take advantages from this status quo. They are not Asians.
NOTE: This writing is my reflection from a lecture by Professor Quangminh Pham and a presentation by Imogen Riethmuller & Le Xuan Hung in Global Politics Seasonal School.