Economy, employment, and environment are top concerns of Southeast Asian peoples, who endorse "ASEAN WAY" in diplomacy
Unemployment, inflation, lack of raw materials, climate change, increasingly intense weather events, widening socio-economic gap and income disparity. These are the main concerns of citizens in the ten ASEAN member countries. The figure emerges from the long-awaited annual report The State of South-east Asia by ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. The results of the annual survey, which is useful to understand what Southeast Asian citizens expect from the year that has just begun, indicate that 59.5 % of the 1,308 respondents in the 10 ASEAN countries ranked unemployment and economic recession as a more pressing concern than climate change, which ranked second with 57.1 %. Rising socio-economic gaps and growing income inequality ranked third, while only after that were the growing geopolitical tensions mentioned by all international media in reference to opposing maneuvers in the Asia-Pacific. Indeed, 73% of the respondents expressed fear that ASEAN is becoming an arena of geopolitical competition, another sign that the classic "third way" of neutrality and pacifism adopted by the bloc is convincing the region's citizens. China continues to be considered the most influential economic power in the region, followed by the United States. China was also ranked as the most influential and strategic power in Southeast Asia. Again, the United States follows in second place. A testament to the fact that the bloc's citizens approve of their government's attempt to keep the doors open to everyone but not turn against anyone. When all is said and done, Southeast Asian respondents continued to prefer the option of strengthening ASEAN's trust and unity to fend off pressure from the U.S. and China amid tensions between the two powers. The traditional option under which ASEAN sides with neither China nor the United States saw more support this year than in 2022, while a third option growing in popularity involves ASEAN seeking to deepen relations with "third parties" such as Japan or India to increase its strategic space.