International Security in the Asia-Pacific: Transcending ASEAN Towards Transitional Polycentrism—An Introduction
Transitional polycentrism is intrinsically awkward as a description of the security of states and their populations. It implies the loosening of state control and the emergence of newly asserted authority by mixed constellations of intergovernmental organizations and non-state actors. It could also imply a competition of agendas between threats to the integrity of borders and the amorphous range of human security threats such as natural disasters, airliner crashes, displacement by man-made pollution, and food scarcity. More conventionally, it could also refer to the decline of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) as the collective security actor that once enjoyed primacy as the lowest common denominator reference for the great powers in Asia to establish community with the weaker states of the region. Conversely, polycentrism could equally imply a return to a more neo-realist-oriented international order where great powers ignore ASEAN and steer regional order according to their perceived interests and relative military superiority. This chapter introduces the book that embraces these contradictory trends and concludes that the onus is on ASEAN to get its diplomatic act together, while the great powers demonstrate the possibilities of self-restraint amongst themselves. Meanwhile, the advent of human security agendas will compel states to align national security with wider universalist frames of loyalty with all the attendant political discomfort in justifying such agendas at home.
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