Over the last few years, China has promoted all kinds of regional and sub-regional cooperation in Asia. However, the extent of China’s drive for institutionalization of cooperative regional multilateral processes is limited by two realist considerations: I) Distribution of power among the forum participants, and whether the major players are well-disposed towards China or not so and II) the importance of the issues that the specific forum is set up to deal with, particularly to the political, economic or security interests of China, but also that of other participating states.
China has successfully pushed for a high degree of institutionalization with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) because the only other major participant (Russia) is a friend, and members have a salient accord in pursuing the aims of anti-terrorism and trade promotion. The Six-Party Talks (6PT) is minimally institutionalized because, although the issue of nuclear disarmament of North Korea is important to China, there are many heavy players with their own agenda in the forum (U.S., Japan, and Russia), North Korea itself is a maverick, and the participants have yet to take concrete steps in resolving many issues pertaining to North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons program. The semi-institutionalized character of the ASEAN+3 reflects the consultative nature of the forum that leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, Japan and South Korea have decided upon, and competition for influence between China and Japan. To increase cooperation with ASEAN without the presence of foreign powers, China has worked towards institutionalizing a separate China-ASEAN axis within the rubric of ASEAN+3.
Chung, C.-p. (2005). Chinese approaches to institutionalizing regional multilateralism (CAPS Working Paper Series No.161). Retrieved from Lingnan University website: http://commons.ln.edu.hk/capswp/56