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3 The Discourse of Complementarity: Institutional Power Relations and ASEAN Centrality

3 The Discourse of Complementarity: Institutional Power Relations and ASEAN Centrality

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actors of APT and the EAS, or between single institutions. Issues that are

of interest in this regard are what roles East Asian regional powers such

as China or Japan play in institutional processes, how ASEAN guarantees

that it takes up a central position in institutional developments, and how

APT and the EAS face each other.

Accordingly, I scrutinize institutional relations in three different dimensions: great power relations, intrainstitutional relations, and interinstitutional or intraregional relations. The next section deals with the first of

these by looking particularly into the issue of Sino–Japanese rivalry over

competing regional imaginaries. Intrainstitutional relations are addressed

in the second section with a focus on the internal institutional relations

within APT and the EAS—including the central role of ASEAN. In the

third section, I turn to interinstitutional or intraregional relations, mainly

by analyzing relations between APT and the EAS—identifying herein the

nodal discourse of complementarity.


Great Power Relations: Sino–Japanese Rivalry

Alongside the role and engagement of the USA in institutional arrangements in the region (see Chye 2012; Yahuda 2011), the relations of both

China and Japan are a further ever-present topic in East Asian institutional

contexts. This is especially true in terms of the still ongoing Sino–Japanese

rivalries (see Buszynski 2009; Dent 2008). This continuing contestation

mainly relates to competing imaginaries over regional cooperation, associated specifically with the notion of either an exclusively East Asian or,

alternatively, a broader Asia-Pacific region.

In the institutional discourse of APT, China clearly puts emphasis on

exclusively East Asian cooperation in order to establish an East Asian community—with APT as the main ideal medium through which to reach

this goal. At a ministerial meeting in 2005, Li Zhaoxing stated that “The

10+3 Summit Meeting last year identified the establishment of the East

Asia Community as a long-term goal for 10+3 cooperation, marking a new

era in East Asian cooperation” (MoFAPRC 2005). This was just as in the

following year too, where he made several proposals to “fully tap into the

potential of 10+3 cooperation and create conditions for the building of

the East Asia Community” and stressed in this context that “[t]he Chinese

side supports the 10+3 as the main channel for building the East Asia

Community, to be completed by the East Asia Summit and other mechanisms” (MoFAPRC 2006). The building of an East Asian community is



clearly articulated as an APT assignment (“as a long-term goal for 10+3

cooperation” or “10+3 as the main channel”), though responsibility for

the successful completion of it is assigned to the EAS (“to be completed

by the East Asia Summit”).

Japan, on the contrary, promotes the imaginary of broader Asia-Pacific

cooperation, though, as noted, not by making use of the Asia-Pacific

regional discourse. Instead, Japan strategically combines the discourse of

openness with that of an East Asian region in proposing an East Asian

community to be based on the principles of openness, inclusiveness, and

transparency (EAS 2009a). By stressing the principle of “open regional

cooperation” (MoFAJ 2005a), as pursued in regional arrangements so far,

Japan argues for broader membership (e.g. “Regional cooperation in East

Asia has developed as ‘open’ cooperation with the involvement of partners

within the region and beyond, and from this point of view, Japan welcomes

the participation of Australia, India and New Zealand” (MoFAJ 2005b)).

The usefulness of broader regional cooperation is thereby articulated in

the form of a problem–solution relation through such statements as follows: “We are eyeing on an open community, and nowadays, a problem in

one region of the world will immediately affect other regions” (MoFAJ

2005c). An open community in the region is thus regarded as a solution

to the problems that can easily spread from one world region to another.

The strategy of Japan’s meaning making—to combine the idea of a

broader framework with the narrower East Asia region one, and setting up

relations of equivalence between these two discourses—backgrounds possible differences in meaning between the two discourses. This functions,

therefore, as an important element in the political process of seeking to

attain hegemony for the imaginary of such an East Asian community—

and, ultimately, its realization. This discourse and associated narrative

become hegemonic in the institutional discourse of APT and recontextualized across scalar boundaries, that is to say from the regional (institutional) level to the national (individual governmental) one. To that effect,

Japan’s strategy proved to be successful and was operationalized in new

ways of acting, in terms of regular EAS meetings, in new ways of being, in

terms of a shared vision of an East Asian community, and in new material

arrangements, in terms of the EAS’s particular institutional design.

In this context, China’s rhetorical and argumentative structure has

changed slightly over the course of the EAS process; the country now seems

to deliberately refer to the broader Asia-Pacific region on occasion. At the

8th EAS, Li Keqiang noted, for instance, that “the EAS has acquired a



significance beyond the region and become an important bridge between

East Asian cooperation and Asia-Pacific cooperation” (MoFAPRC 2013).

In the same remarks, he stated the need to “work actively to promote harmonious coexistence and common development in East Asia and the AsiaPacific for the greater benefit of the people of all countries” (MoFAPRC

2013). Notice, however, how in both statements China holds on to the East

Asia region discourse while simply grafting the Asia-Pacific one on to it.

These institutional texts feature only a few direct references to Sino–

Japanese relations, as illustrated in the following. During a press conference subsequent to APT and EAS meetings in 2005, Junichiro Koizumi

made the following statements:

Japan-US relations, Japan-China relations, or Japan-ROK [Republic of

Korea] relations, we attach importance to all these relations. Japan-China

relations and Japan-ROK relations are both much better than ever before.

Economic ties are expanding, and interdependency has been growing

deeper than before. In addition, art, cultural, sport and people-to-people

exchanges are also much deeper and much broader than ever before. In the

coming days as well, we shall strive to grow these variable relations of interdependence and mutual benefit. There is no change in that basic policy…

I have always been for friendly ties between Japan and China. That is my

view. Japan-China relations are extremely important. From that viewpoint I

have been saying that we should never allow differences in views or confrontations over one or two issues to impede the further growth of our bilateral

relations. There has been no change in that view of mine (MoFAJ 2005c).

In the first part, Japan addresses Japan–China relations, among other

bilateral ones, in the form of an implicit evaluative statement that implies

the desirability of such relations (“we attach importance to all these relations”). That there has been an improvement in relations is indicated by

the phrase “much better than ever before,” which is repeated in two further

subsequent sentences with regard to different policy fields including those

of economics, cultural, and social issues. Relations themselves are described

in terms of “interdependence and mutual benefits.” In the second part,

Japan stresses the desirability of Japan–China relations by making another

evaluative statement (“Japan-China relations are extremely important”).

This is followed by the stating of a commitment to the further growth of

those bilateral relations, despite some differences—identified in terms of a

modalized deontic statement (“we should never allow differences in views…

to impede the further growth of our bilateral relations”).



China, meanwhile, addresses relations with Japan far less concretely,

and mainly with regard to the trilateral cooperation between China, Japan,

and Korea. This is evident in the following statement made by China’s

then Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during an interview subsequent to an

APT foreign ministers’ meeting in 2011:

Over the years, East Asian countries have made progress in practical cooperation in the economic, trade, financial, social, cultural, energy and environmental fields through 10+1, APT, China-Japan-ROK, the EAS and

other mechanisms. Such cooperation has contributed to the deepening of

mutual understanding and friendship in the region and the promotion of

regional stability and development. These achievements should be applauded

(MoFAPRC 2011).

Instead of bringing up China–Japan relations specifically, China mentions multiple forms of relations between East Asian countries in general—including trilateral relations with Japan and South Korea. These are

described as characterized by “mutual understanding and friendship,”

and as contributing to “regional stability and development.” This is followed by a sentence, in the form of a modalized deontic modality (“These

achievements should be applauded”), that indicates a general commitment

to the obligation to improve relations. This way of addressing the relations among Asian countries in general is quite common in China’s official texts, often in the form of the textual features such as modality or

evaluation that are relevant to identification processes. China’s style is thus

characterized by commitments to what is true and desirable, which are

assumed to be universally valid for all Asian countries (e.g. “As the world

is moving toward multipolarity and as economic globalization accelerates,

to pursue peace through dialogue and seek solidarity and development

through cooperation has become the shared desire of all the Asian countries and peoples” (MoFAPRC 2006)).

As the analysis of Sino–Japanese relations shows, both of these countries recontextualize the nodal discourses of APT and the EAS. Thereby,

they contribute to the reproduction of the institutional order of discourse

and maintain the current status in regional social practice. Japan, however,

has also initiated the slight shift from an exclusive toward a broader understanding of regional integration in the institutional discourse. In this way,

Japan has had a share in slightly transforming the institutional order of

discourse and related innovation in social practice.




Intrainstitutional Relations: Mutual Understanding

and ASEAN Centrality

In their first Joint Statement, APT member states committed themselves

to upholding “their mutual relations in accordance with the purposes and

principles of the UN Charter, the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence

the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and the universally recognized principles of international laws” (APT 1999). This clear

commitment to universally recognized principles can be understood as

part of how APT member states identify themselves within the international system. Regarding their particular commitment to the region, they

further agreed “to promote dialogue and to deepen and consolidate collective efforts with a view to advancing mutual understanding, trust, good

neighborliness and friendly relations, peace, stability and prosperity in East

Asia and the world” (APT 1999). Friendly relations in terms of mutual

understanding, trust, and good neighborliness between member states are

here articulated in a relation of equivalence with the aim/goal discourse

of achieving peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and the world.

APT intrainstitutional relations are commonly characterized in such

terms as the ongoing growth of interactions among the APT countries,

and the resulting mutual benefits and closer linkages arising therefrom.

This is illustrated by the following extracts from the Kuala Lumpur

Declaration of 2005:

CONFIDENT that the growing interactions among the ASEAN Plus Three

countries will help promote greater dialogue and collective efforts to both

harness opportunities and meet the challenges posed by a fast-changing and

globalizing world…

ACKNOWLEDGING with satisfaction the steady progress achieved to

date in the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation in all areas has brought about

mutual benefits and closer linkages, thus contributing to the community

building in East Asia (APT 2005b).

As we can see, these articulations are often combined with prominent

challenge/problem or aim/goal discourses in the form of either problem–

solution or goal–achievement relations. In the first text passage, growing

interactions are textured as a solution (in terms of dialogue and collective

efforts) to the challenge of globalization. In the second, APT cooperation

is represented as a way of achieving the goal of mutually beneficial relations and closer linkages among the members—with it being associated



with the realization of the long-term aspiration of community building in

the region.

With regard to vocabulary, there is quite a prevalent recurrence of the

adjective “mutual” and related phrases throughout APT texts. The word

is used to characterize intrainstitutional interactions and interrelations

(e.g. “increase mutual understanding and trust towards forging lasting

peace and stability in East Asia” (APT 1999), “mutual solidarity and concerted efforts” (APT 2005b), and “that the ASEAN Plus Three process

had brought about mutual benefits and closer linkages among the ASEAN

Plus Three countries” (APT 2007b)). Moreover, in terms of identification

processes, there is an interesting text passage concerning sociocultural and

development cooperation, whereby APT leaders agreed to “work towards

increasing efforts in…deepening mutual understanding and forging

a sense of an East Asian identity and consciousness” (APT 2007b). The

mutual understanding between member states is here set in relation with

the shaping of a shared sense of identity and an East Asian consciousness

among regional leaders.

The EAS texts’ structure in reference to intrainstitutional relations

is quite similar to APT’s. In the context of the first EAS, leaders represented their relations primarily in terms of growing interdependence and

interlinkages as well as of the already existing friendship between their


We recognized the increasing inter-linkages and growing inter-dependence

among our countries and agreed to deepen integration and cooperation in

order to promote the creation of a harmonious and prosperous community

of nations (EAS 2005a).

DESIROUS of creating a peaceful environment by further enhancing

cooperation and strengthening the existing bonds of friendship among our

countries in keeping with the principles of equality, partnership, consultation

and consensus thereby contributing to peace, security and economic prosperity

in the region and the world at large (EAS 2005b).

The relations among member states are again articulated in combination with various aim/goal discourses. In the first example, leaders draw

on three of those discourses (integration, cooperation, and community),

in the second they texture their “existing bonds of friendship” and associated principles with the discourse of cooperation and with the one of

peace/stability too.



Particularly interesting in the case of the EAS is that its member

states approved a “Declaration on the Principles for Mutually Beneficial

Relations” in 2011, stating therein a list of guiding principles for this

including “mutual respect for independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity,” “mutual understanding, mutual trust

and friendship,” and “good neighborliness, partnership and community

building” (EAS 2011b). In terms of discursive practice, this declaration

also shows how an intertextual chain works within the institutional context in that it draws on former declarations and is thus linked to other

practices and actions. For example, leaders recall the 2005 Kuala Lumpur

Declaration and reaffirm “its importance in setting the broad vision, principles, objectives and modalities of the East Asian Summit,” as well as their

commitment to the 2010 Hanoi Declaration on the Commemoration of

the Fifth Anniversary of the EAS in order “to redouble efforts to move

progress and cooperation in priority areas of the EAS and other wider

regional economic integration efforts” (EAS 2011b).

Some individual member states assume the dominant argumentative

structure in their own statements pertaining to internal relations. At the

8th EAS, Li Keqiang, for example, stated that “[e]very EAS member has a

common responsibility for security and stability in the region.” He added

further that “[m]utual trust and coexistence is our common belief as well

as the way forward in today’s world” (MoFAPRC 2013), thus employing

commonly used vocabulary (“mutual”) to describe these relations while

also texturing the latter with the aim/goal discourse of peace/stability.

Japan’s statements referring to internal relations slightly differ in that it

continues to strategically make use of the nodal discourse of openness,

and thereby stresses more universal values (e.g. “on the basis of the fundamental principle of ‘open regional cooperation’ basic approaches to regional

cooperation should be reaffirmed at the EAS, with a focus on the following:…; (ii) respect for and observation of universal values, including freedom, democracy and human rights, and global rules;…” (MoFAJ 2005a) or

“regional cooperation in East Asia should proceed (a) based on the principle

of open regionalism, (b) through promotion of functional cooperation…and

(c) with respect for such universal values as democracy and human rights and

with conformity to such global regimes as the WTO” (MoFAJ 2005b)). ASEAN Centrality

As already indicated in the context of the previous subchapters, ASEAN

plays a central role in the institutional discourse of both APT and the

EAS. The internal relations of both institutions are thus significantly char-



acterized by ASEAN centrality. The latter is articulated in multiple different ways, through the regular use of such common phrases as “with

ASEAN as the driving force” or “ASEAN centrality”:

We reaffirmed that the ASEAN Plus Three process would continue as a

main vehicle towards the long-term goal of building an East Asian community with ASEAN as the driving force. At the same time, we reaffirmed

our support for ASEAN centrality in the evolving regional architecture and

recognized the mutually reinforcing and complementary roles of the ASEAN

Plus Three process and such regional fora as ASEAN Plus One, EAS, and

ARF in the East Asian community building process (APT 2011).

The first sentence here shows how ASEAN centrality is textured with the

nodal discourse of community building. At the same time, it represents a

very common articulation of the long-term goal of an East Asian community—with APT as the “main vehicle” and ASEAN as the “driving force”

in the process, notions that recur throughout the related institutional texts

(e.g. “We reaffirmed that the ASEAN Plus Three Process would remain

as the main vehicle towards the long-term goal of building an East Asian

community, with ASEAN as the driving force” (APT 2007b)). By this

means, ASEAN is rather identified as a mediator in regional processes—

operating more as the body that prevents potential struggles or rivalries

between other member states than as a leader. In the second sentence,

ASEAN centrality is combined with the discourse of complementarity.

Through this texturing, the support for ASEAN’s central role is stressed

not only within the APT framework but is also recontextualized to several other regional fora as well. It thereby reproduces ASEAN’s role as a

mediator in regional processes, and thus institutional power relations.

As already illustrated, ASEAN’s central role also figures in the regional

institutions’ organizational emergent properties. In terms of centralization, the annual summits of both APT and the EAS take place in conjunction with the annual ASEAN ones, are furthermore hosted and chaired

by the respective ASEAN member state that holds the ASEAN chair,

and have administrative units at the ASEAN Secretariat. Membership in

both regional fora is based on the criteria for participation established by

ASEAN (being a TAC member, an ASEAN dialogue partner, and having

significant relations with ASEAN) (see APT 2005a; EAS 2005b; MoFAJ

2005b). With respect to the scope of issues covered by the regional institutions, it is accordingly not surprising that topics of special concern to

ASEAN are also discussed within APT and the EAS. A central theme in



this regard is the goal of realizing the ASEAN community by 2015, an

ambition that is supported by both institutions:

We reaffirmed our support to ASEAN’s goals of building an open, dynamic

and resilient ASEAN Community by 2015… We welcomed the signing of

the ASEAN Charter and shared the view that a united and resilient ASEAN

is essential to ensuring regional stability and prosperity (APT 2007b).

We recognized that with the ASEAN Community at the center of our

long-term pursuit of an East Asia community, the APT process could make

positive contributions to the maintenance of regional and global peace, security, progress and prosperity (APT 2007a).

We also had an exchange of views on the effort at community building

being undertaken in the East Asian region. In this regard we expressed our

full support for ASEAN’s efforts to realize the ASEAN Community. We also

recognized that the East Asian community is a long term goal that would

contribute to the maintenance of peace, security, prosperity and progress in

the region and beyond (EAS 2005a).

As we can see, the desire to realize the ASEAN community is recontextualized within the institutional discourse of APT and the EAS through

the reweaving of relations between this “ASEAN-specific” aim/goal discourse and other aim/goal-orientated ones, such as the nodal discourse of

community building or the discourse of peace/stability. A united ASEAN

is represented as being a crucial step toward broader community building in East Asia and is thus correspondingly associated with peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and the world at large. ASEAN member

states strategically organize their ASEAN community discourse around

dominant institutional nodal discourses, thereby not only internalizing a

specific “external” discourse within APT and the EAS but also recontextualizing their central position within regional institution-building processes in general. The external (ASEAN) discourse has thus internal effects

(within APT and EAS), because it is incorporated into ASEAN’s successful

strategy for maintaining the hegemony of ASEAN centrality and for securing institutional power relations.

The multiple ways of texturing ASEAN centrality with other dominant

discourses are also indicated by the results of corresponding co-occurrence

queries (see Table 6.5). As these results show, ASEAN centrality is most

frequently combined with the East Asia region discourse (31), followed

second by the nodal discourse of community building (19).



Table 6.5 Code co-occurrences: ASEAN centrality






East Asia APT–EAS

Community Integration Centralization Membership









Individual member states are fully supportive of ASEAN centrality in

the frameworks of both APT and the EAS. China stresses ASEAN centrality in the APT framework by mentioning, for example, that “[f]or ASEAN

to play the leading role in 10+3 cooperation will ensure the right orientationfor its growth,” adding that “[t]he Chinese side thus firmly supports

the continued leading role by ASEAN in the 10+3 process” (MoFAPRC

2006). With regard to the EAS, China “supports ASEAN’s leading role

in the Summit” (MoFAPRC 2005) just as greatly. In an interview, Yang

Jiechi mentioned in this regard that “ASEAN centrality should be upheld

in East Asia cooperation” as ASEAN “will steer regional cooperation in

the right direction, safeguard the common interests of East Asian countries and maintain the sound momentum of cooperation” (MoFAPRC

2011).By using deontic modalities, China highlights ASEAN centrality

as a shared commitment to obligation among EAS members: first, in a

modalized statement (“should be upheld”) and, second, in the form of a

strong prediction (“will steer”).

India is also supportive of ASEAN centrality in the EAS process as, for

example, stated at the 5th EAS by Manmohan Singh: “India believes in

the centrality of ASEAN’s role in the EAS process” (PMoI 2010). Also,

at the EAS’s second foreign ministers’ meeting the then External Affairs

Minister S.M. Krishna remarked: “We continue to see ASEAN as the driving force in these processes” (MoEAI 2012). The following statement by

Manmohan Singh depicts how India thereby draws on ASEAN’s successful strategy outlined above:

We have embarked on this collective journey in large part because of the

outstanding vision and leadership of ASEAN, first in pursuing ASEAN integration and then expanding it to the wider region. We will be successful if

we adhere to the principles of unity, cooperation and integration that have

guided ASEAN and if ASEAN centrality continues to shape the East Asia

Summit processes. I reaffirm India’s commitment to contribute to this process (PMoI 2013).



Notice how, particularly in the second sentence, the potential success

of the EAS is put in a relation of equivalence with ASEAN centrality;

the unity of ASEAN is represented as a prerequisite for successful East

Asian cooperation. Besides that, the first sentence shows an interesting

choice of vocabulary in the phrase “outstanding vision and leadership of

ASEAN” because, compared to APT’s and the EAS’s official texts, India

makes use of the noun “leadership” to articulate ASEAN’s central role.

This marks an exception to the norm in that, although ASEAN is universally recognized as the driving force in regional processes, its position is

not articulated in terms of leadership in institutional discourse, as already

indicated above.

In contrast to China and India, who both adopt the common discourse

associated with ASEAN centrality, Japan, while accepting ASEAN’s central role to the same extent, does so in a way that stresses the importance

of other actors and proposals at the same time:

First, Japan expects that ASEAN continues to occupy the driver’s seat in the

EAS process. At the same time, Japan expects that ASEAN will continue

to pay due heed to the opinions of Japan, China and the ROK, as well as to

those of other countries concerned. Japan supports ASEAN’s position that

the EAS should be held only within ASEAN under an ASEAN chairmanship. However, we should also consider the possibility of introducing a cochairmanship and of holding the EAS outside of the ASEAN region in the

future (MoFAJ 2005a).

Japan organizes the argument along what we might call a concessionrequest structure. In the first sentence, ASEAN being in the driving seat

is confirmed; this is followed by an articulated expectation in the second

sentence that ASEAN “will continue to pay due heed to the opinions” of

other member states. The same argumentative structure is applied in the

third and fourth sentences too, therein granting ASEAN chairmanship but

also proposing a possible co-chairmanship.

6.3.3 Interinstitutional/Intraregional Relations: APT–EAS

Relations and the Nodal Discourse of Complementarity

In their initial Joint Statement, APT members noted that “their collective

efforts and cooperation agenda support and complement the initiatives of

various multilateral fora” (APT 1999). Although this discourse of complementarity was already apparent at the very beginning of the APT process,

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