As a result of this drawing together, it was hoped that regional unity would naturally result and that economic integration within the region would be easier to facilitate. One of the fundamental purposes of ASEAN, then-at least on the surface-was to accelerate the economic growth, social progress, and cultural development in the region (Mahapatra 1990: 19). Furthermore, ASEAN's founders hoped to promote regional peace and stability in the region by encouraging a "respect for justice and rule of law" (Mahapatra 1990: 19, 26). Less obvious to the outside observer but certainly part of the driving force behind the development of ASEAN was the desire to solve Asian problems in an Asian way rather than by imitating Western solutions (Mahapatra 1990: 6). However, this was an ambitious task, because
The economies of the individual ASEAN member countries were closely integrated with a world economic system that was dominated by the United States. These countries were dependent, for their survival as well as prosperity, on foreign markets, loans and investments" (Mahapatra 1990: 27).
ASEAN, however, is not a "purely" Asian concept. Instead, the idea for the regional block, to a large extent, was conceptualized by the United States. U.S. ...
However, the cooperative development of the nations was only the covering for the U.S.'s real agenda: to halt the progress of Communism and use the ASEAN nations and Japan as the roadblocks:
While the goal of the ASEAN member countries has been acquiring an "Asian identity" and achieving regional economic cooperation, the objective of the United States has been largely strategic in nature (Mahapatra 1990: 6).
That strategic objective of the U.S., hidden from view, was to halt the spread of Communism. The U.S.'s discreet involvement meant that "ASEAN is not purely an indigenous Asian regional organization" (Mahapatra 1990: 76).
Such reality poses a number of implications for ASEAN. On one hand, it leaves ASEAN as a pawn for the United States and its allies, making the possibility of upholding real ASEAN interests difficult in the face of a hegemon's (the United States) interests. In addition, it also renders the concept of ASEAN regionalism in question because of the massive outside influence that it is vulnerable to under U.S. "guidance."
This leaves the question of whether ASEAN is truly a Southeast Asian regional block or not. Thus, as this essay will argue, ASEAN although originally intended to be an organization that upholds Asian regionalism and reduce dependence on foreign powers and markets, was intentionally used by the United States and its allies to uphold their own political and economic interests - the industrialization of Japan within a neoliberal paradigm and the expansion of U.S. ideals to counter the communist treat, among others - in Asia and the rest of the world.
In order to prove this point, the paper will first provide the theoretical foundations of