For the free and open Indo-Pacific strategy to take off, it needs Asean’s endorsement. But this is unlikely as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations refuses to choose between this strategy and the other regional vision: China’s belt and road. Asean has largely taken a cautious, measured approach. Except for Indonesian President Joko Widodo, every Asean leader attended the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May. Despite expressing misgivings about a “new version of colonialism” in Asia, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir signed a fresh deal to proceed with the China-backed East Coast Rail Link project in April, after renegotiating the value of the project.