ASEAN, which establish on 8 August 1967 is well known as a regional organization in South East Asia recently try to play more active roles in International Relations. Moreover, besides creating tighter relations between its members, ASEAN also expand its relations to international world in order to get benefit for achieving ASEAN purposes. One of the most important relations for ASEAN is the cooperation with China. China as the most growing country in Asia can give so many advantages for ASEAN and vice versa.
If we analyze ASEAN – China relation, there are some mutual offers from each actor which being a reason why this cooperation important both for ASEAN and China. Let us start with China. Today, this country has become one of economic giant in the world. With more than 8 percent of economic growth in last five years, China offers an investment opportunities and huge amount of funds for ASEAN members. This could help ASEAN countries to increase their economic level with development assistances from China. The other important sector is about regional security. China’s geographical condition as a direct neighbor for couple of ASEAN members (both land and sea) makes China and ASEAN have the same interest, which is creating a strong, secure, and stabile region.
Security cooperation between China and ASEAN is necessary in order to build a strong cooperation, and minimize the conflict between themselves. China also has an advance technology much better than ASEAN members both do in military and non-military sectors. High investments in China contribute the increasing level of technology they have. Cooperation with Russia also gives China an access to the latest Russian military technology. With this cooperation, ASEAN members can get some advantages from it, such as; at least an access to some China military facility. The other advantage from this cooperation is ASEAN can use it to increase their bargaining position to other international actors.
China can also get so many advantages from the cooperation with ASEAN; there are some reason for China to tighter its relations with ASEAN. Almost every country in ASEAN is a developing and less developed countries except Singapore. It means export orientation from ASEAN members mostly on raw materials. ASEAN countries have many natural resources, and ASEAN can provide China with supply of raw materials that China needs. The other important role of ASEAN for China is as a new market for their product. Tighter cooperation by build some free trade agreement with ASEAN gives China a huge opportunity to sell their products and compete with other ASEAN products.
ASEAN cooperation with the EU on ASEM (China is also involved there), helps China to build greater relations with EU countries by multilateral track. If we see from the political view, China tries to get ASEAN support in its rivalry with US. South China Sea and Malaccan strait as a trade gates from all over the world to China become the most important area for China. Cooperation with ASEAN countries gives China opportunities to secure the area. Finally yet importantly, China’s involvement in ASEAN+3 and ARF is just first step to build a greater relations between China and ASEAN.
However, tighter cooperation between ASEAN and China also faces some challenges in the future. First, there is an inequality development level between ASEAN members and China. Most of ASEAN members are a developing countries and China has become a developed country even an economic giant. These disparities lead to the assumption that the rich will control the poor. This condition will create a negative effect for the cooperation. Second, Border and maritime issues between ASEAN countries and China still become a sensitive problem (especially about South China Sea). Diplomatic way and security cooperation will be the most influence factors to solve this problem.
There is a big opportunity for these relations to become a greater regional cooperation especially in economic sector and security. The important things are there should be an understanding between ASEAN and China about the purpose of the cooperation. Mutual benefit that is achieved will lead this cooperation through the challenges in the future.