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Co-operative Security 2.0: Introduction
By Paul Evans, Chen Dongxiao

THE cover package in this issue of Global Asia traces the evolution of a co-operative security order for East Asia and asks what kind of order is achievable — and appropriate — in such a diverse region and such changing times.


Assessments differ widely about the likelihood of a downward spiral in political security relations in the Asia-Pacific region that would produce a Cold War-like strategic rivalry or an armed conflict involving major powers. Despite some progress on non-traditional maritime security co-operation in the region, recent developments in the South China Sea, for example, show signs of an action-reaction cycle that adds an overlay of geopolitical competition between the United States and China to a territorial dispute that is already complex and dangerous. Add this to a list of tensions, uncertainties and a host of traditional and non-traditional security issues that remain unresolved and menacing. The question remains whether an overwhelming collective interest in deepening economic interactions and the potential for collaboration in building institutions are sufficient to provide the public goods the region requires, reduce regional tensions and forestall a major crisis.


At the end of the Cold War there was an intensive discussion about the nature of the security environment and what kind of security order fit with regional conditions. The Japanese diplomat Yukio Satoh summarized it best as a multi-tiered or multiplex system that included an untidy mix of national self-help, American-girded bilateral alliances, organizations like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and those that it could anchor, and a new brand of multilateral dialogue processes.1 Its implicit premises were continuing American primacy and a complementarity between the nascent multilateralism and the existing alliance system.


The launch of the ASEAN Regional Forum resonated with the ideas of comprehensive security enshrined in ASEAN processes and the new ideas of co-operative security developed in Europe in the late 1980s. Their fusion had three important ingredients: a security philosophy based on building security with neighbors rather than against them, including across ideological divides; a commitment to building inclusive multilateral processes that included both the like-minded and the non-like-minded; and attention to a range of what were described as new or non-traditional security issues ranging from climate change and infectious diseases through to terrorism, illegal migration, piracy, and disaster relief.


That fusion — what might be called “Co-operative Security 1.0” — has been an integral part of a system that has avoided inter-state war for a generation. But it is no longer adequate to address increasing nationalism and the tensions produced by the strategic transition in train. In the early 1990s, the US was dominant in both the economic and military domains. At least in Asia, this has changed. In the early 1990s, the aim was to bring a reluctant and suspicious China to the regional multilateral table. Within five years, Beijing moved from a passive and defensive mode to an active one. Now China is proactive, engaged and underwriting major initiatives mainly in the areas of infrastructure and finance but also through security institutions such as the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building in Asia (CICA). Many see China as directly challenging US primacy in Asia and the Western Pacific.


American “rebalancing” and “new Chinese thinking” have a common interest in deepening multilateral institutions but they do so from different starting points. For the US they are an adjunct to its alliance system; for the China they are potential successors, at least in the long run.


How to manage a strategic transition peacefully?


More than a dozen regional institutions including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+), the East Asia Summit (EAS), the SCO, and CICA are reassessing their design, functions, efficiency and membership. There is considerable discussion focused on the division of labour among them how to increase their effectiveness.
Beyond architectural improvement lies a bigger issue. What kind of security order does the region need and how would it fit with the interests and intentions of its most important players? Security orders involve organizational arrangements but also include the values, norms and organizing principles that regulate state-to-state interactions. It is not simply a codification of the balance of power and material capabilities. Rather it is also about the nature of just arrangements — goals, limits and methods that can only be cultivated, not imposed. It is the product of conscious choices not merely the by-product of state-to-state interactions.
The challenge is not just building a better institutional architecture or addressing crises and points of tension one-by-one, as fundamental and difficult as both might be. The task is to work toward an agreed definition of what kind of security order is appropriate to the economic, social, and political reality of a diverse region at a time of major rebalancing between rising and established powers.


Options are beginning to be discussed. Kevin Rudd has called for a Pax Pacifica built on an Asia Pacific Community and catalyzed by the East Asia Summit process. Hugh White has made the case for an Asia Pacific concert based on US-China collaboration and “shared primacy.” Marty Natalagewa has called for something less adversarial than a balance of power: a “dynamic equilibrium” that seeks to involve all the major relevant powers within a more co-operative framework. Bilahari Kausikan makes the case for a new kind of balance of power, “an omnidirectional state of equilibrium” in which ASEAN countries can enjoy good relations with all the major powers without choosing between them and in which there is a new modus vivendi between the US and China.



The essays in this edition of Global Asia have their inspiration in a series of workshops on Co-operative Security 2.0 organized by the University of British Columbia and the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS) and partner institutions over the past two years. The meetings ranged widely over different types of orders including hegemony, concert, security community, consociational, pluralist, and multiplex. They also examined an array of operational concepts that underpin them self-restraint, reassurance, accommodation, trust and trust-building measures, empathy and empathy-building measures, and some recent Chinese ideas including “Community of Shared Mankind Destiny,” “National Core Interests,” “New Model of Major Country Relations,” and “Opportunity Engineering.”


Central to the discussion are questions about paths to great power restraint and accommodation, the roles of and limitations of Middle Powers “in between,” rules and who makes them, the ingredients of a stable balance of power, the function of trust and empathy, the tension between value-based and more inclusive arrangements, and the intersection of alliances and inclusive multilateralism.


The answers in these essays are scarcely conclusive but they are intended to open a next generation of thinking about Co-operative Security 2.0 and a security order that can manage a turbulent transition.


Paul Evans is a professor at the University of British Columbia teaching Asian and trans-Pacific international relations. Professor Chen Dongxiao is the President of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS).​


Professor Chen Dongxiao is the President of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS).


1 Yukio Satoh, “Asian-Pacific Process for Stability and Security,” paper prepared for the Manila Conference on Regional Security, sponsored by the Government of the Philippines, June 5–7, 1991

Back to Issue
    THE cover package in this issue of Global Asia traces the evolution of a co-operative security order for East Asia and asks what kind of order is achievable — and appropriate — in such a diverse region and such changing times.
    Published: March 2016 (Vol.11 No.1)
    About the author

    Paul Evans is Professor of Asian and trans-Pacific international relations at the Institute of Asian Research and the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. His first book was a biography of John King Fairbank, his most recent a dictionary of Asia-Pacific security terminology, and his next, Engaging China: Myth, Aspiration and Strategy in Canadian Policy from Trudeau to Harper, is due for publication by the University of Toronto Press in March 2014.

    Professor Chen Dongxiao is the President of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS).

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