Graduation Year

Fall 2013

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Minxin Pei

Rights Information

© 2013 Timothy Rotolo


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is guided by a collection of principles known as the ASEAN Way, which emphasizes sovereignty and consensus. When external pressures have forced ASEAN to face contentious issues, internal divisions have torn at the group’s cohesion, and consensus has proved difficult to reach. When Myanmar’s military dictatorship was put on the fast track to ASEAN membership in the mid-1990s, democratic Thailand and the Philippines objected, and strong Western pressure to delay Burmese accession put the group in a difficult spot. Fifteen years later, territorial disputes in the South China Sea pitted ASEAN claimant states against non-claimant counterparts inclined to support an assertive and wealthy China’s point of view. In the first case, reaction against US attempts to sway ASEAN’s decision united the group in support of Myanmar’s admission; in the second case, China’s economic inducements succeeded in dividing the group, to the extent that a 2012 summit ended in disagreement and rancor. ASEAN will need to revise some aspects of the ASEAN Way, particularly sovereignty norms, and create greater binding force to generate the cohesion necessary to effectively deal with future regional problems.

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