top of page

Alternative Centres Of Power | Class 12 Political Science

The chapter introduces students to the different political structures: The European Union (EU) and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). We also highlight the EU's influence in various aspects and the rise of the Chinese economy.


The Emergence of Different Political Structures

It became crystal clear that America's dominance over the world would be threatened by the alternative centres of political and economic power that emerged after the end of the world's bipolar structure in early 1990s.

This led to the emergence of the European Union (EU) and the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Europe and Asia respectively.

European Union

Headquarters: Brussels, Belgium

What is the European Union?

The European Union is a political and economic union that comprises 27 member states located primarily in Europe which are subjected to the obligations and the privileges of the membership.

Every member state is part of the founding treaties of the union and is subjected to binding laws within the common legislative and judicial institutions

How did the Second World War Affect Europe?

Many Assumptions and structures on which the European states had based their relations got shattered after the Second World War.

European Integration was aided by the cold war. Also, the United States of America helped Europe by providing financial aid to revive its economy under the 'Marshall Plan'.

There were several key foundations on which the structure of the European Union was laid; the creation of a single currency, common security and foreign policy and cooperation on justice and home affairs.

The union evolved from an economic union to an increasingly political one and started to act more like a nation state, as of now the union has its own flag, Anthem, founding date and a common currency.

The European Union has tried to expand its relations by making an alliance with new members from the erstwhile Soviet bloc but that was very difficult as many countries were not willing to give a part of their autonomy.

Recently on June 23, 2022, Amid the Russia- Ukraine war the European Council granted Ukraine the status of a candidate for accession to the European Union. As Ukraine was seeking immediate accession of Ukraine to the European Union.

What was the Marshall Plan?

The Marshall Plan was proposed by a former US secretary of state named George Marshall in 1947. The plan was completely focused on providing economic help to all the European countries by allocating $13 Billion in foreign aid. After the Second World War, all the states were severely affected.

The plan played a crucial role in the development of all the European states and all of the countries that received aid were doing a lot better when the plan came to an end in 1951.

More about Marshall Plan

As a part of the Marshall Plan, a security framework was also established named NATO

(North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

The OEEC (Organisation for European Economic Cooperation) was founded in 1948 to help Western European countries receive aid.

In 1949, the Council of Europe was established, marking yet another step forward in political cooperation. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, the European Union was formed.

EU’s Economic Influence

In 2005, the EU had the largest economy in the world, with a GDP of more than $12 trillion, slightly more than the US, but the US overtook the EU in 2016. The Euro is also seen as a major economic power and threat to the dominance of the US Dollar.

The European Union is in charge of a sizable portion of global trade. It has a three-fold larger global trade share than the United States, allowing it to be more assertive in trade disputes with both the United States and China.

It's also a key component of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

EU’s Political Influence

The EU projects political and diplomatic power because two of its members, the United Kingdom and France, have permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. Its members are also represented on the United Nations Security Council's non-permanent council.

As a result, some US policies, such as the current US position on Iran's nuclear programme, have been influenced by the EU.

In many cases of dialogue with China, it has used diplomacy, economic investments, and negotiations rather than coercion and military force.

EU’s Military Influence

The EU's combined armed forces are the world's second largest. After the United States, it spends the second most on defence. Both the United Kingdom and France have nuclear arsenals of around 550 nuclear warheads.

The European Union is the world's second-largest supplier of space and communications technology.

The EU also faces internal divisions among its member states, as each has its own foreign and defence policies.

What is Euro-Scepticism?

The term refers to a political situation involving the European Union and integration. In some parts of Europe, there is 'Euro scepticism' about the EU's integrationist agenda. Denmark and Sweden opposed the Maastricht Treaty and the adoption of the euro as the common European currency.

This is what limits the EU's ability to act in matters of foreign policy and defence.

Association Of SouthEast Asian Nation (ASEAN)

ESTD: 8 Aug, 1967
Headquarters: Jakarta, Indonesia

ASEAN is a regional intergovernmental organisation in Southeast Asia that promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other Asian countries.

This region of Asia suffered the economic and political consequences of repeated colonialisms, both European and Japanese, prior to and during World War II.

What were the primary goals of ASEAN?

The Bandung Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement were ineffective in establishing conventions for informal cooperation in Asia and the Third World. In 1967, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand signed the Bangkok Declaration to become members of ASEAN.

ASEAN's primary goals were to accelerate economic growth and, as a result, "social progress and cultural development."

A secondary goal was to promote regional peace and stability based on the rule of law and the United Nations Charter's principles.

Later, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia joined ASEAN, bringing its total membership to ten.

ASEAN aspires to establish supranational structures and institutions. The ‘ASEAN Way' is a form of informal, non-confrontational, and cooperative interaction that its member states value.

ASEAN Way is the official Anthem of the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations.

The respect for national sovereignty is critical to the functioning of ASEAN. It is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

What are the three pillars of ASEAN?

ASEAN Security Community

It was based on the conviction that outstanding territorial disputes should not escalate into armed confrontation.

ASEAN had several agreements in place by which member states promised to uphold peace, neutrality, cooperation, non-interference, and respect for national differences and sovereign rights.

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1994, is the organisation that carries out coordination of security and foreign policy.

ASEAN Economic Community

ASEAN is primarily a commercial organisation having a much smaller economy than the other economies, but it has a significant growth influence in the region and beyond.

The ASEAN Economic Community's objectives are to establish a common market and production base among ASEAN member states and to promote the region's social and economic development.

Additionally, the Economic Community wishes to enhance the existing ASEAN Dispute Settlement Mechanism for the resolution of economic disputes.

A Free Trade Area (FTA) was established for investment, labour, and services. The US and China have already accelerated their efforts to negotiate free trade agreements with ASEAN.

ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community

ASEAN is rapidly establishing itself as a major regional organisation.

In the international community, ASEAN's Vision 2020 has defined an outward-looking role for the organisation.

What is the 2020 vision?

The ASEAN Vision 2020 was adopted by the member nations in 1997 in Kuala Lumpur with the following important components:

All member governments vowed to make the region more peaceful and supported conflict resolution through diplomacy. The ASEAN also served as a mediator in the resolution of the Cambodian conflict.

As a further commitment to peace and stability, the organisation vowed to make the South Asian region a nuclear-free zone.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) aims to enhance economic cooperation through a variety of development techniques and to emphasise sustainable and equitable growth.

In addition, to achieve global competitiveness, multilateral trade agreements should be utilised to expand commerce. Vision 2020 seeks to establish a successful, stable, and competitive economic zone where commodities, services, and capital flow freely.

Vision 2020 also seeks to ensure that the people of South Asia have equal access to opportunities for their own growth, regardless of their gender, race, religion, language, or cultural heritage. The principal objective of the ASEAN Vision 2020 is to promote environmental stewardship among South Asian nations.

Consequently, Vision 2020 envisions an outward-looking ASEAN that plays a significant role on the international stage.

The Rise Of Chinese Economy

China has one of the strongest economies in the world. As it is the fastest growing economy since 1978. According to the projections and experts, it is said that the Chinese economy will surpass and will be the world's largest economy by 2040.

China also possesses enormous regional power as a result of its economic integration into East Asia.

History & Background

In 1949, after Mao Zedong's communist revolution in 1949, China chose to develop its economy based on the Soviet Model and to cut ties with capitalism.

The idea was to create a state-owned heavy industry sector using agricultural savings.

Later, due to a lack of foreign exchange China chose to import domestic goods. Also, was able to use its resources to build a massive industrial economy.

China had better education and health care than most developing countries, and all citizens had jobs and social security. The economy grew at a respectable pace, but not fast enough. Also, the agricultural output was insufficient to generate an industrial surplus.

Its industrial output was stagnant, and its per capita income was low.

Way Forward

The Chinese leadership ended China's political and economic isolation by establishing diplomatic relations with the US in 1972. On the other hand, China established a market in an unusual way and exported capital and technology to boost productivity.

The Chinese chose gradual economic opening over "shock therapy." After privatising agriculture in 1982, the country went towards the industry in 1998. In this sense, it established SEZs (Special Economic Zones) where foreign investors could set up shop, and were exempt from trade barriers.

The state played an important role in the development of a market economy.

New economic policies helped China's economy break out of stagnation. Privatisation of agriculture increased agricultural output and rural income.

Rural personal savings increased the Chinese economy's growth rate, resulting in a rapid increase in rural industry.

The creation of SEZs and new trade laws resulted in massive increases in international trade. It surpassed the US as the most important FDI destination (FDI).

It has large foreign exchange reserves, allowing it to heavily invest abroad. Also, China's WTO membership in 2001 marked a turning point in its globalisation.

How has this development affected China Internally?

The reforms have not benefited everyone in China. China's unemployment rate has risen to nearly 100%. Female employment and working conditions are as bad as in 18th and 19th century Europe.

A rise in environmental degradation and corruption has accompanied a rise in economic disparity between rural, urban, and inland provinces.

China is a regional and global economic power. China's economic integration and interdependencies have given it considerable influence over its trading partners.

Economic concerns have tempered its outstanding issues with Japan, the US, ASEAN, and Russia. After the 1997 financial crisis, China's contributions to the ASEAN economies helped ease concerns about its rise.

Global player on behalf of developing economies, its more outward-looking investment and aid policies in Latin America and Africa project it.

Sino-Indo Relations

India and China were great powers in Asia before the advent of Western imperialism. China had considerable influence and control on the periphery of its borders based on its unique tributary system.

Various kingdoms and empires in India also extended their influence beyond their borders; this influence was political, economic and cultural.

There were some confrontations with each other regarding the foreign policy of both the nations to deal with each other.

After India regained its independence from Britain, and China expelled the foreign powers, there was hope that both would come together to shape the future of the developing world and of Asia particularly.

Military/ Border Conflict

A border dispute between the two countries has led to armed conflict. In a joint military exercise known as "Hand in hand," India and China train together.

Both countries were involved in the Sino-Indian border dispute that arose after China occupied Tibet in 1950.

In 1962, China and India fought over Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin's territorial claims.

When India lost the war with China in 1962, it had long-term repercussions for India-China relations. Until 1976, diplomatic ties between the two countries were at an all-time low.

Cordial Aspects

When China's political leadership shifted in the 1970s, it became more pragmatic and less political, which aided the country's relations with India.

A popular slogan was 'Hindi-Chini bhai bhai.' A series of talks to resolve the border dispute began in 1981.

Indo-China relations have taken on a variety of economic and political dimensions since the Cold War's end. Both countries see themselves as rising powers in global politics, and they both want to play an important role in Asian politics and economics.

Rajiv Gandhi's visit to China in December 1988 signalled an improvement in India-China relations. Since then, both governments have taken steps to contain the conflict and maintain "peace and tranquillity" along the border.

They've also signed agreements on cultural exchanges, science and technology collaboration, and the opening of four trade border posts. Bilateral trade between India and China has increased.

India and China have agreed to work together in areas where they might otherwise clash, such as bidding for energy deals outside of India.

India and China have adopted similar policies in international economic institutions such as the World Trade Organisation.

The nuclear tests conducted by India in 1998, which were justified in part by a perceived threat from China, did not prevent further interaction.

China's military ties with Bangladesh and Myanmar were viewed as hostile to Indian interests in South Asia. Leaders and officials from India and China are visiting each other more frequently, and both sides are getting to know each other better.

Increased transportation and communication links, as well as shared economic interests and global concerns, should help to make the relationship more positive and stable.


bottom of page