There has not been a whiff of solid global governance since political and economic power began shifting from the West to the East during the past decade. Global economic growth is now driven by the Asia-Pacific region. China, India, South Korea and the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), among others, have enjoyed rapid development, rising economic growth rates and the inflow of capital, as the United States worked to come out of its economic malaise – which it has – and the European Union faced, and continues to face, a crisis in the euro zone.
It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that Washington shifted its attentions from its historic trans-Atlantic relationship to the Asia-Pacific through the Obama administration’s “rebalancing” policy, with a key focus on both economic and security issues.
Indonesia occupies a unique place within this new landscape as a large, emerging economy with a young population. So how can Indonesia contribute to regional and global governance in our multipolar world, and how should it act?
This essay argues that Indonesia should strategically push Asean to be an axis of symmetrical interests when dealing with major countries in Southeast and East Asia, and globally. Indonesia can combine its role as the unofficial leader of Asean with its previous efforts to be involved in regional and global initiatives and institutions, including the G20 and the United Nations.
President Joko Widodo is pushing a policy of Indonesia as a “maritime axis,” projecting the country as a driver and focal point for development between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This could help Asean as an axis of symmetrical interests via cooperation with external partners in Southeast and East Asia and beyond, and enable Indonesia to help shape new global governance.