The China Factor in Regional Security Cooperation: The ASEAN Regional Forum and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization


  • Alfred Gerstl Macquarie University



Regionalism, Regional Cooperation, Security, China, ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum, Shanghai Cooperation Organization


This article argues that regional security cooperation in South-East Asia, mainly promoted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is a response to China´s economic rise. Although China is not regarded as a military challenge, Beijing’s ascension threatens to undermine the regional balance of power. The emerging insecurities threaten the stability of the regimes whose power is based on output legitimacy. Cooperation, the thesis states, can reduce these uncertainties. Yet, whereas collaboration in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) offers Beijing incentives for the strengthening of its “enlightened” multilateralism, regional cooperation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will not change China’s behaviour. The reason is that this cooperation is based on Realpolitik motives. Offensive Realism seems therefore well suited to analyse the Central Asian power relations. Even though the dimension of cooperation has not been included in John Mearsheimer’s approach, this article demonstrates that it can conceptually be integrated into offensive Realism without contradicting its core theses. For this, however, its adherents must accept two assumptions: First, that the domestic political logic – in case of Beijing the output legitimacy of the Communist Party – must be integrated. Second, that there exists no automatism in international politics. Otherwise one would have to speak of the tragic of offensive Realism: Policies, based on this perception, does not offer China suffi cient incentives to further pursue multilateralism.




How to Cite

Gerstl, A. (2008). The China Factor in Regional Security Cooperation: The ASEAN Regional Forum and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Advances in Southeast Asian Studies, 1(2), 118–139.



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