ASEAN’s Diplomatic Tasks During the Pandemic

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What are the implications of COVID-19 for the diplomacy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)? What kinds of diplomatic tasks has the pandemic imposed on ASEAN, and in what way has the Southeast Asian association handled them? ASEAN’s most fundamental diplomatic task has of course been to continue building ASEAN communities, but the ability of the association of minor powers in Southeast Asia is limited. Hence, it can be said that ASEAN’s most important diplomatic task has been to maintain favorable relations with external powers, in particular, with China and the United States. The present study argues that ASEAN has managed to maintain favorable relations with and receive support from both of these external powers by conducting “equidistant diplomacy” with them. In concrete terms, it has fostered favorable relations with China. Yet, without relying excessively on Beijing, it made sure to foster such relations with the United States as well, thereby striking a reasonable balance between these two external powers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalEast Asia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jun


  • Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Equidistant diplomacy
  • Hedging


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