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Covid-19 and ASEAN: Strengthening State-centrism, Eroding Inclusiveness, Testing Cohesion


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has responded to the Covid-19 crisis in a path-dependent way. The latter is shaped by a time-tested repository of cooperation norms, which give precedence to national sovereignty. Hence, belated, ad hoc and largely declaratory collective responses to the Covid-19 crisis are business as usual and are unlikely to have disruptive effects on ASEAN’s operations. Yet member countries’ emergency measures are intensifying ongoing processes of democratic backsliding and will have negative repercussions on the grouping’s inclusiveness. They will impair advancements towards a people-oriented ASEAN. Regional cohesion will be further jeopardised by relations with China, which have intensified due to Chinese “mask diplomacy”, but are also increasingly influenced by China’s encroachments on ASEAN member states’ claims in the contested South China Sea.
Keywords: ASEAN; regionalism; Covid-19; historical institutionalism