Constructing security cooperation between China and ASEAN: By trial and error
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By the end of the 1980s, China and ASEAN started to engage in security cooperation with each other. This was a remarkable development, primarily because the relation between China and the ASEAN member states was somewhat complicated (e.g., due to territorial conflicts in the South China Sea). The main aim of this thesis is to study why, despite their troubled relation, security cooperation between China and ASEAN was initiated in 1989 and how it developed in the period between 1989 and 2003. To better understand why the initiation of security cooperation between China and ASEAN was remarkable in the first place, this thesis explains that China and ASEAN member states have a long history of distrust and conflicts. This thesis then continues by explaining what caused China and ASEAN to nevertheless reach out to each other by the late 1980s, and how these efforts were affected by their problematic relation. Among other causes, China was inclined to cooperate with South-East Asian states, after being condemned by (most of) the international community following the Tiananmen Incident in 1989. At the same time, ASEAN member states became less influenced by the idea that China formed a threat, and became aware that China played an important role in the regional affairs. However, although the security cooperation between China and ASEAN steadily intensified during the 1990s, interestingly, China and ASEAN still had issues. This thesis discusses these complications, whose origin often precedes 1989, and describes their effect on security cooperation. This leads to the main conclusion drawn by this thesis, namely that previous and ongoing problems between China and ASEAN actually formed an important reason for them to cooperate. Throughout, this thesis uses international relations theories (Liberalism, Realism, Constructivism) to gain a better understanding of why China and ASEAN acted the way they did.