JC History Tuition Online - South China Sea dispute - Cartoon Analysis - ASEAN

South China Sea dispute – Cartoon Analysis

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 2: ASEAN (Growth and Development of ASEAN: Building regional peace and security – relations between ASEAN and external powers)

Gain insights to understand the significance of the dispute
In the following section, we will be examining some political cartoons to comprehend the perceptions and interpretations by various authors on the South China Sea dispute. As JC students preparing for the GCE A Level History examination, it is important to refine your critical thinking skills by exploring diverse sources. Try to critique the strengths and limitations of each cartoon to test your level of understanding.

By Paresh Nath, The Khaleej Times, UAE, 20 August 2014.
About ASEAN’s repeated calls for the adherence to its ‘Code of Conduct’ while being surrounding by myriad claimants in the sea.
Cartoon by Paresh Nath, 10 July 2012.
Depiction of conflicting clams among Vietnam, the Philippines and China, while ASEAN struggles to remind all parties to follow the ‘Code of Conduct’.
By Paresh Nath, 27 July 2020.
About a Chinese ‘dragon’ surrounding the sea while other claimants look on helplessly.
Cartoon from Times of India, 31 October 2019.
ASEAN member states facing a menacing-looking whale that deployed Chinese vessels into the disputed territory.
An editorial cartoon from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 30 April 2017.
ASEAN struggles in its responses towards a ‘militarised’ China in the West Philippine Sea.
Editorial cartoon on ASEAN unity and issue of the South China Sea dispute.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that ASEAN was successful in maintaining its regional security in the post-Cold War world?

Join our JC History Tuition to find out how to revise for the Source Based Case Study section in Paper 2. The H2 and H1 History Tuition programmes feature thematic revision for areas like The Cold War, Global Economy and the Asian Financial Crisis. Students can participate in free writing practices to find out what are the areas of improvement and raise their writing proficiency levels.

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JC History Tuition Online - What was ASEAN's response to the Third Indochina War

What was ASEAN’s response to the Third Indochina War?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 2: ASEAN (Growth and Development of ASEAN: Building regional peace and security – relations between ASEAN and external powers)

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]:
Essay Questions
Theme II Chapter 2: The Cold War and Southeast Asia (1945-1991): ASEAN and the Cold War (ASEAN’s responses to Cold War bipolarity)

Historical context: A violation of national sovereignty
In December 1978, Vietnamese forces launched a full-scale assault, crossing the Cambodian-Vietnamese border.

In January 1979, the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh was occupied by an alternative government, the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).

In the same month, Singapore joined other member nations for an urgent meeting. After much deliberation, ASEAN issued a joint statement to deplore the invasion, calling for the immediate withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Cambodia.

4. Towards this end, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers called for the immediate and total withdrawal of the foreign forces from Kampuchean territory.

5. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers welcomed the decision of the United Nations Security Council to consider without delay the situation in Indochina, and strongly urged the Council to take the necessary and appropriate measures to restore peace, security and stability in the area.

An excerpt from the “Joint Statement The Special ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting On The Current Political Development In The Southeast Asia Region Bangkok“, 12 January 1979.

Notably, ASEAN not only made a united stand against military aggression, but also called on the United Nations to address this escalating threat that had endangered regional stability.

Contestation by Great Powers
On 17 February 1979, China engaged in a military confrontation with Vietnam. Observers interpreted the attack as a hint to Moscow that China would not remain on the sidelines following the invasion. Yet, ASEAN members were increasingly concerned with the Chinese involvement in the conflict.

After much persuasion with member nations in the United Nations General Assembly, the International Conference on Kampuchea (ICK) was held from 13 to 17 July 1981. However, there were some shortcomings.

The pro-Communist bloc nations like Soviet Union and Vietnam were absent. Additionally, China had disagreed with ASEAN’s draft for the ICK, particularly the disarmament of Khmer resistance groups and the creation of an interim administration.

Singapore saw this inflexible Chinese position as evidence of Beijing not wanting an early solution, and that it was more interested in a protracted conflict to “bleed” Vietnam. Its ultimate objective was to use the armed forces of the Khmer Rouge to restore a pro-China regime in Phnom Penh, and hopefully see the emergence of a Chinese-friendly Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Manila felt that ASEAN should not be seen to be succumbing to China’s pressure at this stage whereas Bangkok was more interested in accommodating China, as its overriding concern was to ensure that China could help defend Thailand against a Soviet-supported Vietnam.

An excerpt from “Singapore, ASEAN and the Cambodian Conflict 1978-1991” by Ang Cheng Guan.

The situation had become even more complex when the US delegation sided with China. Then Foreign Minister of Singapore Dhanabalan had revealed that attempts to convince Big Powers like the USA and China had been challenging, given their diverging interests with ASEAN members during the Cold War.

I was surprised to note how keen the U.S. was to accommodate the PRC’s request. I explained to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State that it was not possible to accede to the PRC’s request as it was wrong and would also not get any support from the conference. He ended the meeting by threatening that he would go over my head and take the matter up with Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore… It was a real life experience for me that interests and not principles determine the actions of big powers.

An excerpt from “The Little Red Dot: Reflections by Singapore’s Diplomats” by Tommy Koh and Li Lin Chang.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the challenges that ASEAN faced in response to the Third Indochina War.

Join our JC History Tuition to study how ASEAN managed various regional and international threats during the Cold War. The H2 and H1 History Tuition programmes feature online learning programmes to organise your content awareness and writing skills for essay and source based case study. We organise free writing practices for students to hone their answering techniques.

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JC History Tuition Online - What is the Kuantan Doctrine - ASEAN Notes

What is the Kuantan Doctrine?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 2: ASEAN (Growth and Development of ASEAN: Building regional peace and security – relations between ASEAN and external powers)

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]:
Essay Questions
Theme II Chapter 2: The Cold War and Southeast Asia (1945-1991): ASEAN and the Cold War (ASEAN’s responses to Cold War bipolarity)

Historical context: A looming threat of Great Powers
In response to Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in December 1978, the Indonesian President Suharto and Malaysian Prime Minister Hussein Onn met in Kuantan in March 1980. Both parties agreed that the Cambodian conflict posed a grave threat to regional security, if left unchecked.

The threat extended beyond the presence of a pro-Vietnam government in Cambodia, particularly the dangers posed by the Soviet Union and China.

The joint statement issued by Malaysia and Indonesia took into consideration the broader security concerns of the two countries, such as the perceived threat posed by China and the increased influence of the Soviet Union in the region. The statement envisaged a Vietnam free from the influences of both China and the Soviet Union and took into consideration Vietnam’s security interests in Cambodia. In other words, the Kuantan Principle sought to bring Vietnam out of the Sino-Soviet dispute and to reduce the influence of these two powers in the region. It also displayed a less confrontational stand toward Vietnam over the Cambodian situation as compared with the ASEAN policy.

An excerpt from “Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor” by Keat Gin Ooi.

However, the Kuantan Doctrine was never put into practice as other member states of ASEAN rejected the proposed solution. For instance, the frontline member Thailand was concerned with its border security, given its proximity to Cambodia.

Soviet Union or China: A greater threat?
Although ASEAN eventually issued a joint statement to deplore the Vietnamese aggression, diverging perceptions among some member states had given rise to disagreements.

From Suharto’s point of view, China was deemed a more serious threat than Vietnam. As such, Indonesia put forward the idea of granting a certain degree of autonomy to Vietnam for its presence in Cambodia.

As the interlocutor of ASEAN on the Kampuchea issue, Indonesia was mainly concerned that the conflict might divide the region into two clusters: maritime ASEAN and Indochina under Vietnamese domination. Indonesia feared that a bipolar Southeast Asia could pit the communist against the non-communist states, thereby opening the door to intervention by external great powers.

An excerpt from “Indonesia’s Ascent: Power, Leadership, and the Regional Order” by Christopher Roberts, Ahmad Habir and Leonard Sebastian.

On the other hand, both Thailand and Singapore perceived a Soviet-backed Vietnam as a more significant threat than China. To some political observers, inaction may mean that neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia condone sovereignty violation.

However, Singapore’s strident anti-communist posture was essentially aimed at the Soviet Union and its perceived regional proxy, Vietnam. Hence, curiously enough, whereas there was clear evidence of Chinese support for communist insurgency in Southeast Asia, the most aggressive policy pronouncements against communism were those aimed at the Soviet Union.

An excerpt from “Realism and Interdependence in Singapore’s Foreign Policy” by Narayanan Ganesan.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that Singapore’s foreign policy responses were successful during the Third Indochina War?

Join our JC History Tuition to study conflicts and challenges such as the Third Indochina War. The H2 and H1 History Tuition programmes feature online learning classes to develop sound thinking and writing skills. We provide concise study notes and hold guided writing practices to prepare you for the GCE A Level History examinations.

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JC History Tuition Online - Why was Singapore separated from Malaysia - JC History Essay Notes

Why was Singapore separated from Malaysia?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: racial and religious divisions, ideological differences

Learn more about historical developments that led to Singapore’s independence [Video by Singapore Bicentennial]

Historical Context: Merger with Malaya
On 16 September 1963, the Federation of Malaysia was established, comprising of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo. Before the Federation was formed, a White Paper was published in November 1961 to outline terms of Singapore’s entry into Malaysia, such as the revenue contribution to the federal government and the creation of a common market between Singapore and Malaysia. However, there were political differences between the two governments that had affected the sustainability of the merger.

The Federal General Election of 1964
Following the Tunku’s contestation in the 1963 Singapore General Election, the People’s Action Party (PAP) participated in the 1964 General Election in Malaysia. Although the PAP had only secured one seat, extremists from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) viewed their non-communal style of politics had threatened the party’s interests. A smear campaign to discredit the PAP begun, which later culminated in the communal riots in July and September 1964.

Following the 1963 Singaporean elections, relations between UMNO and the PAP, with their competing multiracial visions quickly soured…These tensions began to be reflected in strained Malay-Chinse relations in Singapore, which were exacerbated when the Singapore-based PAP won a seat in the suburbs of the federal capital, Kuala Lumpur, in the general election in peninsular Malaysia in April 1964 by campaigning on the slogan of a “Malaysian Malaysia.” In this toxic political climate, the usually peaceful Malay procession to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday in Singapore quickly deteriorated in July 1963 into riots between Chinese secret society and Malay ultranationalist gangs.

An excerpt from “Multiculturalism in the British Commonwealth: Comparative Perspectives on Theory and Practice” by Richard T. Ashcroft and Mark Bevir.

Money matters: Disputes over tax and revenue contributions
On 25 November 1964, the Malaysian Finance Minister Tan Siew Sin brought up the Malaysian budget during the federal parliament. The budget sought to raise M$147 million through a policy of taxation, in which Singapore was required to contribute 39.8%.

In response, the Singapore government rejected the proposal on the basis that the disproportionate amount would harm businesses and labour-intensive industries.

Then, the minister stated that Singapore had to increase its revenue contribution to the federal government from 40 to 60%. Again, the Finance Minister of Singapore, Dr Goh Keng Swee, responded by stating that the 60% was not ‘equitable’.

These arrangements did not work out even though the Malaysia Agreement was signed on 9 July 1963, which included the creation of a common market.

The Malaysian Solidarity Convention: Multiculturalism in Malaysia
On 9 May 1965, the Malaysian Solidarity Convention was formed with the aim of fighting the spread of communalism in the Malaysian Federation.

The convention involved six political parties, comprising of the following:

  • Singapore – People’s Action Party
  • Sarawak – Machinda Party and United People’s Party
  • Peninsula Malaysia – People’s Progressive Party and United Democratic Party

Yes, we have got differing points of views, different experiences, different parties. But I tell you two things brought us together; one, the fact that we are Malaysians and not communalists; second, the fact that is spite of all this truculence, we are still talking for Malaysians on behalf of a Malaysian Malaysia towards a Malaysian Malaysia, and we will continue to do so.

An excerpt from Prime Minister of Singapore Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s speech at the Malaysian Solidarity Convention at the National Theatre, 6 June 1965.

The convention sought to advocate the concept of a ‘Malaysian Malaysia’, so as to preserve the unity and stability of the Federation. As a result, the federal government objected to the convention, particularly during the parliament meeting on 25 May 1965.

From then on, the Tunku decided that the removal of Singapore from the Malaysian Federation was the only way to mend the political fissures.

The Separation: A different Singapore
On 9 August 1965, Singapore was declared independent. The Tunku made a similar announcement on the separation to the federal parliament in Kuala Lumpur. During a press conference, Prime Minister Lee explained why the separation took place.

But I would say that the Tengku convinced me and he told me that he could not go on holding the situation much longer and that he could see real trouble in Malaysia if Singapore continues to be in it.

…You see, this is a moment of … everytime we look back on this moment when we signed this agreement which severed Singapore from Malaysia, it will be a moment of anguish.

…There is nothing to be worried about it. Many things will go on just as usual. But be firm, be calm. We are going to have a multi-racial nation in Singapore. We will set the example.

An excerpt from the transcript of a press conference given by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, at Broadcasting House, 9 August 1965.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that political differences most significant in affecting Singapore-Malaysia relations?

Join our JC History Tuition to learn more about regional conflicts and co-operation, such as the Merger and Separation. Our H2 and H1 History Tuition classes will improve your reading and writing processes.

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JC History Tuition Online - What is the Sabah dispute - JC History Essay Notes

What is the Sabah dispute?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: territorial disputes

Historical Context: The Malaysian Federation
Before the Malaysian Federation was formed, the Cobbold Commission was held to assess the willingness of the people in the North Borneo territories to support the merger. Later, the Commission concluded that about ‘one third’ were in favour of the Federation.

Yet, both Indonesia and the Philippines rejected the results of the Commission. Then, a tripartite meeting was conducted in Manila, in an attempt to resolve the differences among three, including Malayan Prime Minister Tunku.

12. The Philippines made it clear that its position on the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia is subject to the final outcome of the Philippine claim to North Borneo. The Ministers took note of the Philippine claim and the right of the Philippines to continue to pursue it in accordance with international law and the principle of the pacific settlement of disputes. They agreed that the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia would not prejudice either the claim or any right thereunder.

An excerpt from the Manila Accord, 31 July 1963.

The conclusion of the meeting was marked by the signing of the Manila Accord by the Philippine president Macapagal, Indonesian president Sukarno and the Tunku. All parties had expressed their desires to respect the wishes of the people in North Borneo, should the United Nations establish another commission to confirm the general opinion.

Nearly two months later, the United Nations Malaysia Mission report was submitted by the Secretary-General U Thant on 14 September 1963. The report stated that “majority of the peoples of Sabah (North Borneo) and of Sarawak, have given serious and thoughtful consideration to their future, and to the implications for them of participation in a Federation of Malaysia”.

However, the findings were again rejected by the claimants. Two key incidents occurred as a result of the Federation – the Confrontation and ‘Operation Merdeka’.

Conflicting Claims
From the Philippines’ perspective, Sabah was rightfully under their control, citing historical basis for their claims. In 1704, the Sultan of Brunei ceded the North Borneo territory to the Sultan of Sulu for quelling an internal rebellion. In the 19th century, major powers like Great Britain and Spain had recognised the Sultan of Sulu’s sovereignty over the territory.

In 1878, the Sultan of Sulu signs a contract of permanent lease with Baron von Overbeck and Alfred Dent. The rights over Sabah were transferred to the British North Borneo Company, in exchange for annual payments of 5,000 Malayan dollars.

However, Malaysia maintained its position that the North Borneo Company had ceded territorial rights of Sabah to Britain in 1946, thereby making it a British colony.

Visual illustration of the disputed claims over Sabah [Illustration by The Economist]

On 15 October 1968, the Philippine government brought the Sabah dispute to the United Nations General Assembly. In his address, the President Fidel Ramos proposed to submit the case to the International Court of Justice.

38. It is obvious even from a cursory examination of the documents to be considered in the determination of the issues involved in the dispute that the International Court of Justice is the organ of the United Nations that should take cognizance of the dispute between the Philippines and Malaysia. It is the body best suited to handle such a complex dispute.

39. In that case that Malaysia agrees to elevate the dispute to the Court, the Philippines will be prepared to abide by whatever decision that judicial body may render. If the decision of the Court is in favour of Malaysia, that will be the end of the Philippine claim. If the decision is in favour of the Philippines, that will not be the end of the case. For the Philippines is committed to the principle of self-determination and would be prepared to ensure the observance of that principle in Sabah.

An excerpt from the official records of the Twenty-Third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 15 October 1968.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the implications of the Sabah dispute on bilateral relations between the Philippines and Malaysia in the 1960s.

Join our JC History Tuition to learn more about regional conflicts and co-operation, such as the Confrontation. Our H2 and H1 History Tuition classes are conducted online to broaden your understanding of different topics and refine your writing techniques for essay and SBCS.

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JC History Tuition Online - Konfrontasi Revisited - JC History Essay Notes

Konfrontasi: Revisited

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: territorial disputes

Find out what happened during the Konfrontasi [Video by Singapore Bicentennial]

The Confrontation
In July 1963, the Konfrontasi (Confrontation) began, threatening the socio-political stability of the newly-formed Malaysian Federation. The conflict had significant impacts on the perceptions of neighbouring countries toward Indonesia, especially after the formation of ASEAN.

Impacts on Indonesia-Malaysia relations
Bilateral relations were affected by the ‘ghost’ of Konfrontasi. With the the institutional support from the regional organisation, both parties were more willing to cooperate politically and economically.

Despite mutual high-level reassurances, relations thus remain somewhat ‘brittle’. Bilateral ties are still more contingent than institutionalized, and neither side seems sure of the other’s genuine goodwill or commitment to reciprocity – whether ‘bilateralism’ really means something more than involving two parties. Much as Konfrontasi has been ascribed at last in part to Sukarno’s grandstanding style and the verbal jousting between him and Tunku Abdul Rahman, which left little room for compromise, a change in domestic mood – especially in a rise in non-negotiable, emotional nationalism – can still dangerously curtail policy options or public support for particular positions.

An excerpt from “International Relations in Southeast Asia: Between Bilateralism and Multilateralism” by N. Ganesan and Ramses Amer.

Impacts on Indonesia-Singapore relations
For Singapore, the lingering impacts of the Konfrontasi on bilateral relations had subsided by the 1970s, following the Prime Minister’s visit to Jakarta. Furthermore, increased cooperation between the two nations in the 1980s and 1990s had helped to normalise relations.

Although it remains contentious as to whether the kind of multilateralism enjoined by ASEAN has brought about a regional security community, in the sense of its members having stable expectations of peaceful dispute resolution among themselves, most accounts of the regional organization argue that it has served to embed shared interests, trust, and habits of cooperation.

An excerpt from “International Relations in Southeast Asia: Between Bilateralism and Multilateralism” by N. Ganesan and Ramses Amer.

Regional cooperation: A new goal
Notably, the Konfrontasi was a reminder to member nations of ASEAN on the fragility of diplomatic relations. At the final stages of the conflict, efforts were made by Suharto and his counterparts to de-escalate tensions amicably.

In wrecking the prospects for MAPHILINDO, Konfrontasi had underscored the importance of regionalism by demonstrating the high costs of the use of force to settle intra-regional conflicts.

… While interest in regionalism among the five member states of ASEAN was a result of varied geopolitical considerations, all recognised ASEAN’s value as a framework through which to prevent a return to a Konfrontasi-like situation. As a regional forum under Indonesia’s putative leadership, ASEAN would first and foremost constrain Indonesia’s possible return to belligerence.

An excerpt from “Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: ASEAN and the Problem of Regional Order (Politics in Asia)” by Amitav Acharya.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess whether inter-state tensions have hindered regional cooperation after 1967.

Join our JC History Tuition to learn more about regional conflicts and co-operation. Our H2 and H1 History Tuition classes are conducted online to improve your awareness of historical developments and refine your writing skills for essay and source based case study questions.

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JC History Tuition - When was ASEAN formed - JC History Essay Notes

When was ASEAN formed?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Reasons for the formation of ASEAN

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]:
Essay Questions
Theme II Chapter 2: The Cold War and Southeast Asia (1945-1991): ASEAN and the Cold War (ASEAN’s responses to Cold War bipolarity)

Historical context: Konfrontasi, an undeclared war
Before the founding of ASEAN, Southeast Asia was affected by conflicts that broke out due to political differences among neigbouring countries. Furthermore, the Cold War rivalry had expanded into the region, pressuring governments to take a side.

In particular, the Indonesian leader Sukarno expressed disapproval at the formation of the Malaysian Federation in 1963, which sparked a three-year conflict. Philippines also disputed the creation of the Federation due to the inclusion of Sabah.

Following the rise of Suharto, the Indonesian government expressed desire to mend diplomatic ties with Malaysia, as evidenced by the official end of the Confrontation in August 1966. As a leader that desired regional leadership, Suharto supported the formation of ASEAN as a regional organisation to unite neighbouring countries.

ASEAN was born in the aftermath of the tense and and destabilising Konfrontasi (Confrontation) of 1963-1966, which President Sukarno of Indonesia had launched against the Federation of Malaysia to protest its formation. Thanat Khoman – Foreign Minister of Thailand from 1959 to 1971 – was attempting to broker a reconciliation between Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia that he broached the idea of forming a new organisation for regional cooperation to Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik, and on 8 August 1967, the five foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand came together in the main hall of the Thai Foreign Affairs Department to sign what is now known as the ASEAN Declaration or Bangkok Declaration.

An excerpt from “ASEAN Law and Regional Integration: Governance and the Rule of Law in Southeast Asia’s Single Market” by Diane A Desierto and David J Cohen.

Functions of ASEAN
Following the creation of ASEAN in August 1967, the regional organisation had developed four main methods of cooperation: the non-use of force, pacific settlement of disputes, regional autonomy and non-interference. Member nations have agreed to forge regional cooperation through diplomatic means, while avoiding the use of military force.

The establishment of ASEAN was the product of a desire by its five original members to create a mechanism for war prevention and conflict management. The need for such a mechanism was made salient by the fact that ASEAN’s predecessor had foundered on the reefs of intra-regional mistrust and animosity.

An excerpt from “Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: ASEAN and the Problem of Regional Order” by Amitav Acharya.

It was known that its norms were developed as a result of past setbacks, such as the failure of organisations like the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) and MAPHILINDO. (A grouping that involved Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia).

ASEAN Way: Guiding principle for co-operation
The “ASEAN Way” was one of the fundamental features of the regional organisation. It was inspired by Malay cultural practices known as musjawarah and mufukat. In principle, ASEAN functioned on the basis of consensus and consultation.

Antolik identifies three key principles of ASEAN that all member states must adhere to in order to ensure the success of the organization. These are restraint, respect, and responsibility. Restraint refers to a commitment to noninterference in other states’ internal affairs; respect between states is indicated by frequent consultation; and responsibility involves the consideration of each member’s interests and concerns. In practice, ASEAN’s unified policies reflect a consensus that is usually the lowest common denominator among member states… ASEAN is a convergence of the interests of its members.

An excerpt from “Explaining ASEAN: Regionalism in Southeast Asia” by Shaun Narine.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the political effectiveness of ASEAN in promoting regional unity from 1967 to 1991.

Join our JC History Tuition and learn more ASEAN and other regional and international organisations. We cover a broad range of topics for H1 and H2 History. Students will receive study notes and undergo skill-intensive discussion and practices. Over time, we assure you that you will develop an organised and sound mind to derive logical arguments for essay writing and source based case study questions.

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JC History Tuition - What is the main purpose of ASEAN - JC History Essay Notes

What is the main purpose of ASEAN?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Reasons for the formation of ASEAN

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]:
Essay Questions
Theme II Chapter 2: The Cold War and Southeast Asia (1945-1991): ASEAN and the Cold War (ASEAN’s responses to Cold War bipolarity)

Find out how ASEAN has evolved over the years ever since its inception in 1967 [Video by NowThisWorld]

The tumultuous sixties: Why was ASEAN formed?
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established as a regional organisation on 8 August 1967 by five members – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The regional grouping was formed during a troubling decade in which Southeast Asian governments were pre-occupied with domestic challenges, such as the rise of Communist insurgencies.

Let’s take a look at the Bangkok Declaration that was signed by the five members:

SECOND, that the aims and purposes of the Association shall be:

1. To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of South-East Asian Nations;

2. To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter;

An excerpt from the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration), 8 August 1967.

In order to understand the purpose of ASEAN, it is imperative to consider the motivations of individual member states.

Singapore: Economics and Regional Security
For Singapore, ASEAN was a necessary grouping to address the immediate concerns of the government. On 9 August 1945, the leaders of an ‘accidental nation’ had to contend with the limited resources in Singapore. On 18 July 1967, the British announced its plans to withdraw from the East of Suez. The unexpected departure of the British forces left Singapore vulnerable to security threats.

As one of the founding fathers of ASEAN, Mr Rajaratnam played a pivotal role in fostering an ASEAN consensus and promoting a more cohesive and cooperative region. Initially, he argued that regional cooperation should be contemplated primarily in economic terms.

… Mr Rajaratnam articulated Singapore’s view that ASEAN was primarily an organisation for promoting economic cooperation and not for resolving the region’s military and security problems.

An excerpt from “S Rajaratnam on Singapore: From Ideas to Reality” by Chong Guan Kwa, S. Rajaratnam.

However, not all members were supportive of the reliance on external powers for regional security, such as Indonesia.

Indonesia: Regional leadership in a post-Konfrontasi era
The former President Sukarno’s policy of Confrontation had strained diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Singapore. Subsequently, Suharto supported the formation of ASEAN not only to mend relations but also strive to assume a leadership position in the grouping.

Nevertheless, Suharto still held a common view with his predecessor in pursuing a policy of non-alignment.

In effect, the policy of konfrontasi prevented Indonesia from winning recognition as a regional leader in Southeast Asia and beyond in the non-aligned movement. Later, President Suharto would argue that Sukarno’s konfrontasi had also violated Indonesia’s bebas-aktif principle in foreign affairs, whereby Jakarta was to pursue an independent and active foreign policy, which implied avoiding an alignment with any one bloc.

An excerpt from “ASEAN’s Diplomatic and Security Culture: Origins, Development and Prospects” by Jurgen Haacke.

On 16 August 1966, Tun Razak and Adam Malik signed the Jakarta Agreement that signified the official end to the Confrontation. The Agreement was built on the basis on an earlier Bangkok Accord that required Indonesia to recognise Malaysia diplomatically. Malaysian-Indonesian relations were eventually normalised on 31 August 1967, a few weeks after ASEAN was established.

Regional cooperation was firstly intended to exorcize the ghost of confrontation, to provide a contrast between Sukarno’s confrontative foreign policy and the New Order’s more conciliatory approach.

… Nevertheless, the urgency for Indonesia to co-found ASEAN was primarily to restore the country’s regional and international standing.

An excerpt from “Indonesia in ASEAN: Foreign Policy and Regionalism” by Dewi Fortuna Anwar.

The relevance of ASEAN in the post-Cold War era
Although some critics point out that ASEAN has yet to resolve the South China Sea dispute, many recognise ASEAN’s successes in contributing to the creation of a peaceful and stable region. In 2017, ASEAN celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Moving forward, member nations have reaffirmed their commitment in advancing regional cooperation.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the view that the ASEAN was formed as a result of economic reasons.

Join our JC History Tuition and learn more about the regional organisation. Sign up for the online learning programme and you will receive study materials and practice questions. We teach students to think, organise and write effectively for essay and source based case study questions.

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JC History Tuition - The Enlargement of ASEAN - JC History Essay Notes

The Enlargement of ASEAN

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 2: Growth and development of ASEAN

Learn more about ASEAN and its member nations. [Video by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung]

ASEAN: The Founding Five
Ever since the Bangkok Declaration was signed in 1967, ASEAN was formed by five founding member nations to promote regional cooperation. The five members are: Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

In the 1980s and 1990s, five new members joined ASEAN, namely Brunei Darussalam (8 January 1984), Vietnam (28 July 1995), Laos and Myanmar (23 July 1997) and Cambodia (30 April 1999).

Let’s look at some of the key considerations for ASEAN’s new members, namely Vietnam and Myanmar.

1. Vietnam
Before Vietnam joined ASEAN, member nations of ASEAN did not establish strong diplomatic ties with said country. This was largely the result of Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in 1978. Its illegal occupation was perceived by many not only as a threat to sovereign rights, but also security risks.

Furthermore, ideological differences between ASEAN members (which mostly advocated democracy) and Vietnam further made it difficult for political leaders to see eye to eye.

Nevertheless, member nations, including Thailand (which was initially concerned with Vietnam’s military aggression in Cambodia) were supportive of admitting Vietnam due to the significant benefits to facilitate regional economic integration.

Fear of Vietnam defined ASEAN for much of its institutional history; now ASEAN’s main antagonist has joined the fold. The decision to allow Vietnam membership, and to fast-track the applications of other Southeast Asian states, was pushed by Thailand, which saw itself as the economic hub of mainland Southeast Asia and perceived ASEAN’s expansion as an opportunity to increase its own status within ASEAN.

An excerpt from “Explaining ASEAN: Regionalism in Southeast Asia” by Shaun Narine.

From the Vietnam’s perspective, the consideration of becoming part of the ASEAN family was a desirable prospect. The gradual decline of the Cold War rivalry ushered a new era of political cooperation in Southeast Asia. In 1986, the Vietnamese government conducted a policy reform, known as Doi Moi, to advance economic development. As such, Vietnam adopted a more outward-looking attitude and sought cooperation with ASEAN members.

The end of the conflict in Vietnam, and of the Cold War, removed some of the barriers to co-operation. The essential factor for Vietnam’s membership into ASEAN, however, stemmed from the policy of reform or renovation (doi moi) that the Vietnamese Communist Party announced in 1986. It was this policy that led Vietnam to approach ASEAN with increasing interest from the mid-1980s.

Excerpt from “The 2nd ASEAN Reader” edited by Sharon Siddique and Sree Kumar.

2. Myanmar
As for Myanmar, the political controversies surrounding the alleged human rights violations explained the reluctance of some member states of ASEAN in accepting Myanmar’s admission. Furthermore, Western countries, including the USA, also expressed similar sentiments towards ASEAN’s decision to admit Myanmar.

In the late 1960s, ASEAN members had invited Myanmar to join the organisation. However, Myanmar was one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement and rejected the offer. In the early 1990s, the military government changed its stance as the leaders believed that a policy of isolationism was not desirable for its progress.

Notably, ASEAN’s past successes and effective political mechanisms (including the ASEAN Way) were motivating factors that spurred these countries to join the organisation as well.

According to Khin Ohn Thant (2001), there were at least two reasons which led to Burma’s decision to join ASEAN. First, towards at the end of the millennium, internal and external conditions had changed in the country. Domestically, Myanmar had expended large resources on internal security measures for decades, and now “the government had signed peace treaties with most of the revels, who have laid down their arms. This now allows the Myanmar Government to devote more attention to external matters, including ASEAN“.

The second reason, suggested by Khin, was that, “in this age of globalization and regionalism, the country realizes that it cannot continue to isolate itself. It needs to identify with a sympathetic group, which will treat it as one of them, and a group that will not exploit Myanmar’s weak situation.”

Most probably, the “ASEAN Way”, that is, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and its consensus-building and conflict resolution mechanisms, attracted Myanmar into the embrace of ASEAN.

Excerpt from “Myanmar in ASEAN: Regional Cooperation Experience” by Mya Than.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the view that ASEAN’s enlargement was successful in promoting regional unity.

Join our JC History Tuition and learn more about ASEAN. We cover thematic issue discussion for topics like Inter-state tensions and regional co-operation. We also provide source based case study questions (SBCS) to demonstrate the application of reading and writing skills.

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JC History Tuition - ASEAN Economic Cooperation during the Cold War - JC History Essay Notes

ASEAN Economic Cooperation during the Cold War

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 2: ASEAN (Growth and Development of ASEAN : Building regional peace and security)

ASEAN Economic Cooperation after 1976
Following the historic Bali Summit in February 1976, ASEAN members signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) as well as the ASEAN Concord. By doing so, member states expressed their common desire to promote economic cooperation against the backdrop of the growing threat of Communism in Southeast Asia.

However, it is imperative to observe that regional economic integration was not on the top of the priority list for many member nations.

Prior to the late 1980s, consideration of deep regional economic integration remained taboo and the focus was on economic cooperation…

ASEAN’s preference for regional economic cooperation rather than deep regional economic cooperation rather than deep integration in the 1970s and 1980s reflects the reluctance of some ASEAN countries to undertake trade and investment liberalisation owing to the pursuit of industrial policies of import substitution and picking winners.

An excerpt from “ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Integration” by Siow Yue Chia, Michael G. Plummer

According to the authors, “deep economic cooperation” refers to the removal of artificial barriers to promote international trade. In contrast, “economic integration” implies the aim of forming a Free Trade Agreement, economic community or customs union.

Diverging perceptions towards regional economic integration
Although the ASEAN Concord signified the member states’ desire to engage in regional economic cooperation through the setup of large-scale industrial projects within Southeast Asia, some had reservations over economic integration.

According to Widjojo Nitisastro, Indonesia had resisted all notions of trade liberalization and regional economic integration. Indonesia, he said, was more concerned with food, as well as energy, security and with the establishment of large-scale industrial projects.

An excerpt from “Southeast Asian in Search of an ASEAN Community: Insights from the former ASEAN Secretary-General” by Rodolfo C. Severino

Under Suharto’s leadership, Indonesian economist Widjojo Nitisastro took the lead in shaping the ‘New Order’ government’s economic policies. Notably, Nitisastro was part of the ‘Berkeley Mafia’ group that operated as technocrats to guide economic development in Indonesia.

Such views were expressed during the inaugural ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEMM) that was held in March 1976. Some membere states expressed concerns over access to essential resources and food like crude oil and rice respectively.

Preferential Trading Arrangement (PTA)
The PTA was introduced in July 1977, in which member nations would allow imports from other members a “margin of preference on Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs”.

After a decade of ongoing negotiations, the economic ministers agreed that the PTA would be applied to at least 90% of the items traded within ASEAN with at least 50% of the value of intra-ASEAN trade.

Unfortunately, intra-ASEAN trade remained low. During the 1991 meeting, economic ministers, it was reported that the value of intra-ASEAN trade in items covered by the PTA barely increased from US$121 million in 1987 to US$578 million in 1989.

The following document produced by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) reveals the underlying problems that explained the limited success of the PTA:

The existing low level of intra-ASEAN trade has always been the rallying point for the “regionalists”, who strongly advocate a rapid growth of intraregional trade in order to diversify the region’s market base and to reduce its over-dependence on the industrialized countries.

However, intra-ASEAN trade since 1976 has simply failed to take off in real terms and remained stagnant at around the 15 per cent…

At the same time, the stagnancy of intra-ASEAN trade also reflects the tremendous structural problems and institutional biases operating against intraregional trade.

An exceprt taken from the UNIDO report titled “Regional Industrial Co-operation: Experiences and Perspective of ASEAN and the Andean Pact“, 1983.

The ASEAN Industrial Projects (AIP)
In March 1980, the AIP was formalised to encourage member states of ASEAN to engage in economic cooperation. According to the Basic Agreement on ASEAN Industrial Projects, the host country was required to invest 60% of the equity, while the other four member nations would occupy the remaining 40%.

However, ASEAN encountered stumbling blocks against due to the perceptions of intra-ASEAN competition as possible conflicts to their national interests.

Among the approved ASEAN Industrial Projects, only the urea fertilizer plants in Aceh in northern Sumatra and Bintulu in central Sarawak have survived as such. No ASEAN country was willing to see curbs on its option to put up industries similar to those allocated to another ASEAN country.

… The ASEAN countries’ lack of enthusiasm for AIP’s other than their own was indicated by the fact that Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines, as well as Singapore, were willing to commit only one per cent each of the Thai potash project’s equity…

An excerpt from “Southeast Asian in Search of an ASEAN Community: Insights from the former ASEAN Secretary-General” by Rodolfo C. Severino

The ASEAN Way: Conflict versus Consensus-building
Nevertheless, there were member nations within ASEAN that advocated regional economic cooperation, even though the slow progress in the 1980s left much to be desired.

Given Singapore’s inherent challenges of lacking a sizable market, the government was a strong supporter of ASEAN economic integration.

We have spoken in one voice against protectionist policies. For our admonitions to be effective, however, we must practise what we preach. In our policies to promote intra-ASEAN trade, we must not put barriers to trade between ASEAN and the industrial countries. We cannot expect others to keep their markets open to ASEAN products if we close our markets to theirs.

… One cardinal principle ASEAN has practised is to agree by consensus. Consensus ensures that the national interest of any member will not be compromised. I suggest the time has come for greater latitude in defining ‘consensus’ so as to widen the areas of cooperation. When four agree and one does not object, this can still be considered as consensus; and the four should proceed with a new regional scheme. An ASEAN five-minus-one scheme can benefit the participating four without damaging the abstaining one. Indeed, the abstaining one may well be encouraged to join in later by the success of the scheme.

An excerpt from a speech by then Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew during the Ninth Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers, 21 April 1980.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that ASEAN was effective in promoting regional economic co-operation from 1976 to 1991?

Join our JC History Tuition and consolidate your knowledge for topics like Regional Conflicts and Cooperation. We cover H1 and H2 History syllabus through online class discussions. By joining our online learning programme, you will receive study notes and feedback from our JC History Tutors to raise the proficiency of writing to ace the GCE A Level examinations.

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