New Power Dynamics in Southeast Asia: Issues for US Policymakers
47th Strategy for Peace Conference
Since the end of the Vietnam War, Southeast Asia has often been viewed as secondary to vital US interests. However, in a post-Cold War world that is increasingly shaped by rising powers and nonstate actors what was previously marginal can become pivotal. After September 11, 2001, Southeast Asia was identified both by Islamic radicals and the United States as a “second front” in the war on terrorism, with some of Southeast Asia’s Muslim population forging closer ties with the Middle East even as Middle Eastern petrodollars funded Southeast Asian mosques and schools and as radical Islamic groups target the region. Southeast Asia has also emerged as a crossroads between status quo powers—the United States, Japan—and rising China and India.

At the 47th annual Strategy for Peace Conference, held in October 2006, the Stanley Foundation convened four panels to assess the political, security, economic, and regional aspects of the changing power dynamic in Asia, with particular attention to Southeast Asia. The dialogue brought together policymakers, scholars, analysts, and nongovernmental practitioners to consider the challenges—as well as opportunities—for US policy in this new regional environment.

The Asia-Pacific region is vast, diverse, and dynamic. For example, the 21 economies that are grouped in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum represent 56 percent of global gross domestic product; 48 percent of global trade; and 40 percent of the world’s population. Since 1989 the APEC economies have collectively grown 26 percent, compared with 8 percent for the rest of the world. But, for the region as a whole, prosperity has not necessarily translated into peace. The region contains some of the world’s largest armed forces: of the top 20 militaries, 8 are in the Asia-Pacific, half of which are in Southeast Asia.

This page is part of Rising Powers: The New Global Reality, a project from the Stanley Foundation.