Emeritus Professor of Political Science
The principal regional organizations in East Asia and Asia-Pacific, ASEAN and APEC, are widely seen to be crisis-stricken, ‘becalmed’, or ‘adrift’. At the same time, East Asia is witnessing the emergence of a new as yet embryonic body, ASEAN Plus Three (APT) and ambitious projects implying closer integration between Northeast and Southeast Asia are being mooted.Departing from an analysis of the determinants of the success and failure of regional integration, this article discusses the roots of the perceived decline of ASEAN and APEC and the origins of the rapid rise of APT. The Asian financial crisis in particular, it is argued, has been instrumental both in undermining ASEAN and APEC and in fostering the rise of APT.The crisis has brutally exposed the structural weaknesses of ASEAN and APEC, both of which are handicapped by the political and economic diversity of their member states and the absence of a benevolent dominant state or coalition of states.It has simultaneously fueled the development of APT because it has greatly strengthened perceptions of mutual economic interdependence and vulnerability in East Asia and resentment against the West and the US. As APT is likely to exhibit similar structural weaknesses to ASEAN and APEC, the odds, however, are against it developing into a strong regional organization, notwithstanding the possibility that, in the near future, external forces and trends (stagnation of world trade liberalization, closer European and American integration) will, if anything, encourage plans for closer East Asian integration.