Asian Security after US Hegemony: Spheres of Influence and the Third Wave of Regional Order

The Asian security landscape is unsettled. The region is quickly becoming multipolar. Hedging strategies—even by US allies—are now commonplace. Intra-regional trust remains low amid myriad territorial and strategic disputes. And Asia’s regional institutions remain unwilling to take on the tasks of security governance because member states will not allow it. These trends signal a region in flux, raising doubts about the sustainability of the prevailing order based on US liberal hegemony.1 But on what basis will the next “wave” of order proceed? Absent US hegemony, it remains less than obvious what, if any, guiding principle or concept of order will permit states of different resource endowments, positions (geographically and functionally), and ambitions to predictably and peaceably co-exist in the future.

This article advances three linked arguments in response to the “next wave of order” problem now facing Asia. First, modern Asia has experienced what are popularly recognized as two major epochs or “waves” that broadly defined how regional relations were ordered—Cold War bipolarity and post-Cold War American liberal hegemony. Second, contemporary trends suggest the second wave (US hegemonic order) will be difficult to sustain. The third argument is that the concept of spheres of influence represents the most promising source of a third wave of regional security order because of its congruence with emerging circumstances; in some ways it is already imposing itself on Asian international relations.

The remainder of the article proceeds in three parts. In the first part, I briefly describe popular renderings of the first two waves of Asian security order and how each provided a different orienting frame for regional relations. In the second part, I highlight the ways in which current trends challenge the durability of the second wave of order—US-led liberal hegemony. In the third part, I introduce the concept of spheres of influence, apply it to describe Asia’s complex security environment, and argue the merits of Asian states and the United States leveraging this analytical concept as a diplomatic tool. Viewing Asian international relations through a spheres-of-influence lens puts limits on international competition, recasts how and why key international disputes endure, and offers potential “trade space” to better manage some disputes through issue linkages and mutual recognition.

The First Two Waves of Regional Order

The first wave of regional order following World War II is commonly characterized as a bipolar one.2 Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union imposed a structure on Asia that all states were forced to navigate. Facing the stark choice, many Asian statesmen deliberately aligned their foreign policies with either of the two great powers.3 Others, including India and a number of Southeast Asian governments, hewed to a principle of nonalignment with either the United States or the Soviet Union. The broad competition of the two great powers was a defining constraint, simplifying the foreign policy choices of Asian states even if they chafed at the circumstances.4 In Cold War Asia, you could align with the United States, align with the Soviet Union, or take the path of nonalignment by adopting policies that deliberately eschewed both; there was no meaningful alternative to these choices in the realm of foreign relations.

The end of the Cold War brought about an end to Soviet competition with the United States in Asia. By default, the world’s sole superpower was also the region’s dominant power.5 After World War II, the United States backed the creation of a liberal international system that used institutions to “lock in” disproportionate US influence while promoting political and economic forms of liberalism abroad.6 The scope of this system was geographically contained during the Cold War because the Soviet Union posed an alternative, but by 1991 there was no longer a coherent alternative to the US liberal order. Whereas the first wave of regional order was founded on great power competition, the second wave found stability in the virtually unchallengeable dominance of the United States, who used its position to advance lowered barriers to international trade and investment, extension of “most favored nation” trading status to emerging economies (including China), a thaw in relations between former communist nations and US Cold War allies, and the gradual (if impermanent) spread of democratic reforms across parts of the region.7

The post-Cold War era was, thus, seen as an age of US liberal hegemony because many contours of regional order largely accorded with US preferences.8 Hegemony involves a strategic bargain that reflects the power asymmetry between a dominant power and smaller powers. The US innovation, as John Ikenberry tells it, is to take a light-handed, even reluctant approach to hegemony, which he expects is, by virtue of its benignity, more sustainable than the dominance of past hegemons throughout history.9 Ikenberry has argued that this American style of hegemony was more benign than the rule of past hegemons because it credibly restrained US power while also offering benefits to smaller powers, who were effectively “buying in” to a system that encouraged cooperative economic development and unfettered access to the international spaces then described as the “global commons.”

The Growing Challenge to US Dominance

But the era of American liberal hegemony was never totally realized in Asia; it was often accepted as narrative, particularly among the United States and its allies, but implemented only sporadically.10 Of course, outright opposition to the United States was rare, but fear of US overreach and local policy preferences that often diverged from US preferences gave rise to strategic hedging and “soft balancing” against the United States, especially by China and some Southeast Asian states.11 Nevertheless, throughout this period and up to the present, the US approach to the entire Asia-Pacific region has remained grounded in empowering institutions of regional governance, neoliberal economic principles, and democracy promotion. The rebalance to Asia under President Obama looks mostly indistinguishable from the liberal hegemonic approach to Asia under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.12

A liberal hegemonic approach to Asia was not necessarily problematic in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War. But the trajectory of the region’s dominant security-relevant trends—power diffusion, hedging strategies, and constrained regional institutions—puts a US-based liberal order, to the extent it exists in Asia, under growing strain in at least three ways.

First, power in the region is diffusing to a degree unprecedented since World War II.13 Most Asian militaries are undergoing military modernization programs that increase their ability to mount credible defensive and offensive operations against other militaries. In many cases, aggregate military spending is increasing as part of deliberate modernization processes.14 But even for states whose defense budgets have not noticeably increased, the effort to update and remake the composition of their national military capabilities involves extending the range and precision of their lethality. Concurrent with investments in improved range and precision targeting capabilities is evidence of a region-wide shift from defense spending primarily on ground forces and internal security to air and maritime forces whose orientation is traditionally toward external threats.15

The motivations for each state’s military investments vary depending on particular circumstances, but the fact of such widespread modernization in a common direction tells a common story: insecurity. This is a fundamental problem for an order premised on US hegemony because whatever support there may be for US liberal principles in the region, the trend implies a diffuse lack of confidence in the hegemon’s ability to maintain its obligations in the larger strategic bargain; hegemons are supposed to be responsible for dampening insecurity. Worse, these military modernization processes are moving states toward what China has already achieved—an ability to limit, or at least impose much greater costs on, the ability to project military power in Asia, including the United States. This trend promises to exacerbate the material basis for waning confidence in the US willingness or ability to uniformly enforce a liberal order with itself at the center.

Yet, military modernization represents only one indicator that Asian states—even those openly aligned with the United States—are adopting hedging strategies in their foreign policies. The hedging trend has been documented thoroughly elsewhere,16 but it is sufficient for purposes here to note that other indicators of hedging include: states simultaneously relying primarily on China for economic prosperity and the United States for security; a conspicuous absence of overt balancing or bandwagoning; and attempts to multilateralize security cooperation without taking on costly commitments or subscribing to rule enforcement mechanisms.17 The reasoning most persuasively advanced for hedging’s pervasiveness has mostly to do with multiple forms of uncertainty.18 Low levels of intra-regional trust prevail, states are unclear about how China-US relations will proceed, and regional security discourse is dominated by numerous well known territorial and strategic disputes, the most acute of which are found on the Korean Peninsula, in the East China Sea, and in the South China Sea. All of this makes the hedging trend a direct, if nuanced, challenge to US hegemony. It is a statement that Asian states are unwilling to entirely rely on the abstract strategic bargain in which the United States was—even for those unaligned with the United States—the guarantor of assured access to global sea lanes, a check on the expansionist ambitions of regional neighbors, and upholder of security commitments to allies. That Asian states would search for alternative or duplicative sources of security while still largely counting on an enduring US presence in and commitment to the region suggests doubts about—but not necessarily opposition to—US staying power in Asia.

Neither military modernization nor the hedging trend would be all that problematic were it not for a patchwork regional institutional architecture that—largely by design—has proven incapable of managing the region’s strategic conflicts of interest and territorial claims. Even the staunchest proponents of regionalism admit that, whatever their benefits, Asia’s regional institutions are not optimized for either crisis management or the resolution of interstate disputes on matters of “high politics.”19 This challenges an order premised on US hegemony in at least two ways. First, recurring crises and the potential for conflict among states are the very things that drive an arms-race logic and the hedging trend. Second, China’s well-documented assertiveness across the region has involved an explicit divide-and-rule strategy; China seeks to isolate individual smaller states politically so that it can assert maximum influence over each.20 If institutions were able to attenuate these problems, it would have the residual effect of reinforcing a liberal regional order, which is why the Obama administration has made inclusive regionalism a cornerstone of its policy of rebalancing to Asia.21 Instead, China has actually managed to coopt select members of regional organizations, like Cambodia and Laos in ASEAN, to fracture its cohesion and neutralize its ability to address—to say nothing of solving—ongoing disputes in the South China Sea.22 As a consequence, states feel security dilemmas more acutely than they otherwise would, and the United States is repeatedly put in the position of needing to risk conflict over issues the stakes of which much of the American electorate neither understands nor necessarily supports.23

Spheres of Influence as a Third Wave

As a “resident Pacific Power,” the United States is likely to remain a major part of the Asian security landscape for the foreseeable future. What is more, numerous Asian states share an interest in sustaining a liberal order regardless of America’s staying power in the region. Yet, given the regional trends of the previous section, the United States finds itself in an untenable position in trying to extend and maintain liberal hegemony while several states—principally China—possess the means and resolve to resist or undermine it. This growing gap between the second wave of regional order and an emerging “polycentric” security environment leaves an opening for an alternative concept of order as the basis for a third wave, the logic of which already seems to be imposing on Asia: spheres of influence.

Spheres of influence are generally understood as relational structures involving two specific features: some amount of control over a given territory or polity by a foreign actor, especially as regards third-party relations, and exclusion of other external actors from exercising that same kind of control over the same space.24 Whereas scholars often treat international hierarchies as simple rank-orderings of states,25 the concept of spheres of influence adds a layer of depth by accounting for not only distinct roles of subordination and superordination between states—wherein one state asserts mutually acceptable prerogatives of control and exclusion over another—but also for the degree to which external third parties accept or challenge that hierarchical relationship. Any given hierarchical relationship does not exist independent of others.

In the nineteenth century, spheres of influence were not simply an analytical abstraction but a widely used tool of diplomatic practice among Western powers to pursue their national interests while maintaining peaceable great power relations. Geopolitical strategist Lord Curzon records the earliest known use of the term in 1869, when Russia’s foreign minister conveyed to the British that Afghanistan was “…completely outside the sphere within which Russia might be called upon to exercise her influence.”26 As the United States in particular sought to expand its markets into Asia during this same period, it contended with what officials then understood as established spheres of influence in China, Japan, Korea, and parts of the Pacific Islands; US policy toward Asia at the time was designed to navigate within and across these spheres.27 This was a messy but still discernable geopolitical landscape; the region was ordered in a hierarchical fashion, but the reasoning, function, and specific terms of spheres of influence were diverse.

The phrase “sphere of influence” later took on negative connotations because of its association with imperialism,28 but such a reductive view is unfair for multiple reasons. First, a sphere of influence need not involve imperial injustice toward smaller powers; most spheres of influence, analytically and in practice, involved mutually acceptable bargains between larger and smaller powers, granting the latter some agency. Second, it overlooks the productive role that spheres of influence played in preventing and managing many disputes among the great powers, by demarcating competition, clarifying the balance of interests, and linking contentious issues in a way that made them more manageable. Third, even in the rare instances when imperial powers clashed, as in the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars, spheres of influence help inform why they did—these wars were fought over competing claims of control and exclusion regarding a third party (principally Korea).29 The histories of these wars simply cannot be—and often are not—told without reference to spheres of influence.

Summarizing both their importance and eclecticism, Walter Lippman would later write that spheres of influence are “…one of the elementary facts which every competent foreign minister keeps in mind…While the existence of spheres of influence is undeniable, there can be great differences in how the great power exerts its influence.”30 For policy purposes, mechanisms of control and exclusion are best understood as functionally hegemonic orders but at limited scale, ranging from sub-regional to as small as a single protectorate. These potentially multiplicative forms of order originate from strategic bargains struck between hegemons and client states or allies.31 Such bargains lock in an underlying power asymmetry, but “power” in this sense can refer to military, economic, discursive (identity), or positional (network) superiority. The key to identifying a sphere of influence is the presence of specified rights, privileges, and responsibilities on both sides of a transaction that results in some form of control and exclusion by consent, especially of the smaller state’s freedom of action with third parties. If a sphere of influence is not consensual then it is not legitimate and is, therefore, vulnerable to contestation by an outside power.

Spheres of Influence in Contemporary Asia

This concept provides a way of making sense of Asia’s complex security environment far more comprehensively than do caricatures of US hegemony, a China-US power transition, or a regional security community; all of these frames grasp some aspects of Asia at the expense of others. For decades, Southeast Asian states have crafted national security strategy with an aim of avoiding the control of either the United States or China.32 Core to ASEAN identity (though hardly unique to ASEAN) is a desire to avoid domination by outside powers, without discriminating against the particular character of the hegemon. South Korean policy elites similarly express angst about being trapped between competing US and Chinese spheres of influence; Chinese opposition to the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Korea can be viewed as a challenge to control and exclusion imperatives that the United States had long enjoyed with South Korea.33 Australia had a sphere of influence over parts of the Pacific Islands for generations, but recent Chinese economic penetration and local perceptions that are stridently anti-Australian have converged to erode Australia’s traditional control and exclusion prerogatives.34 And strategic studies scholars refer to “a system of competing spheres of influence in the Western Pacific” that defines unchallengeable areas of control separating the United States and China.35 This geopolitical lens views Asia in terms of geographies over which either the United States or China is capable of exercising exclusive physical control through coercive power, while sites of contestation—like the South China Sea—are defined as areas where neither side is capable of military dominance.

Asia’s most extensive sphere of influence involves the rarely discussed border areas surrounding China. In contemporary relations with the numerous smaller states on its periphery, China has established control and exclusion “partnerships” that leverage its economic centrality to them by deliberately linking trade, investment, and aid with political and security cooperation.36 China leverages what it calls “strategic comprehensive partnerships” with these countries to “…shape a more favourable political environment for China.”37 Especially with smaller neighbors who are structurally dependent on Chinese economic ties—including Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan—China’s partnerships result in varying amounts of control over these states’ domestic institutions.38 At the same time, and far from the Western concept of “most favored nation” trading status, China uses the partnership mechanism with these states and others to establish exclusionary privileges in relation to third parties. Terms of exclusion that China secures from peripheral states through these partnerships include: foreswearing military and political alliances with third parties that might be turned against China; securing exclusive access to certain areas of peripheral territory for Chinese-only gas pipelines and other projects; and preventing third-parties from using the peripheral state’s territory against China.39

In this way, China is establishing its own version of order with select countries where it sees an interest and ability to do so. “Order” within the Chinese sphere is based on mechanisms of control and exclusion, but in a manner largely antithetical to the principles of a neoliberal order. The United States also maintains a sphere of influence—the alliance system functions on the basis of control and exclusion as well—but it is one in which its stalwarts (Australia, Japan, and South Korea) share a common ideological preference for a neoliberal system. This “bifurcated order” or “dual-hierarchy” describes two spheres of influence within the same region.40 Sites of contestation are found primarily in areas of unresolved overlap.

Sphere-of-Influence Diplomacy

As outlined above, thinking of Asia in terms of spheres of influence is useful for characterizing alignments of states, locating actual and potential disputes among states, and accounting for the fundamentally inegalitarian nature of regional politics. Rarely do any two states have the same amount of power or occupy the same position (geographically or functionally), and such differences enable influence in different ways. But the sphere of influence frame can also be used as an instrument of diplomacy. Some observers, for example, claim that China “simply wants a sphere of influence that increases its global clout…” but that it would involve the United States abandoning any security commitment to Taiwan.41 In such a case, the United States would effectively be recognizing that Taiwan falls within a Chinese sphere of influence, and in a spirit of reciprocity, might be able to secure greater Chinese recognition of the legitimacy of the US sphere of influence involving its alliances in the region. I have publicly opposed this specific proposal in part because it marginalizes Taiwan’s perspective, which seeks to maintain US security ties and eschew being incorporated into a Chinese sphere of influence.42 Yet, the example is useful to illustrate how a spheres-of-influence frame creates linkages across issues of dispute, which in turn opens up “trade space”—that is, opportunities for positive-sum thinking and policy pathways capable of resolving otherwise irreducible conflicts of interest. If Taiwan falling within a Chinese sphere of influence is found acceptable, or if Taiwan sought greater distance from US security policy, then recognizing Taiwan as part of a Chinese sphere might be advisable.

Similarly, the United States has little basis on which to challenge the control and exclusion imperatives China enjoys over many—but not all—of the smaller states on its periphery. Whatever the consequences of China’s assertions of control over these states’ third-party relations, they largely acquiesce to such imperatives,43 which undermines the legitimacy of US attempts to wrest or disrupt China’s control over these smaller states. What is more, in a narrower military sense, much of China’s periphery involves continental geography that poses a challenge to US power projection and gives tactical advantages to China. Should a contest of force ever be relevant in these locations, this constrains the US ability to extract benefits—in the form of credible threat-making or indirect political influence—from America’s otherwise generally favorable military balance with China.44 Given the growing impracticality of American intervention in some of these peripheral locations, then, recognition of a “non-interference” principle for those areas comes at little US expense or risk, yet might have the benefit of easing some of China’s larger strategic security concerns regarding sentiments of “encirclement.”


This article has argued that Asia faces an unresolved “third wave of order” problem. Prevailing regional trends suggest that US hegemony is not uniformly or universally sustainable, if it ever was. To premise analysis of the region on US hegemony is to make a false assumption that would likely lead to distorted assessments. More importantly, to proceed with US policy toward Asia with expectations of imposing or sustaining a liberal hegemonic order is to generate unnecessary friction and to potentially put the United States in a position where it must extend or uphold commitments that may not be in its interest or that of its allies.

As a concept, spheres of influence provides a better—more accurate—map of Asia’s complex security environment. As a diplomatic construct, spheres of influence opens up the possibility of finding (or at least exploring) mutually acceptable solutions to problems of great power competition and permitting a just role for smaller states within that context. It would be a mistake to impose incomplete frames involving power transitions, enduring hegemony, or security communities on an Asia that is becoming more complex. A third wave of order is emerging amid Asia’s complexity, and it looks and functions like spheres of influence. We ignore that shift at our own peril.

Dr. Van Jackson is an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) and an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). The views expressed are his own.

1. Richard Haass, “The Age of Nonpolarity: What Will Follow U.S. Dominance?” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2008): 44-56.

2. Historians claim bipolarity started giving way to a more eclectic and multipolar order in the 1970s, but even as power began to diffuse, regional relations were still ordered along divisions between US and Soviet spheres for the rest of the Cold War.

3. For a broad overview, see John Lewis Gaddis, The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987); Steven Hugh Lee, Outposts of Empire: Korea, Vietnam, and the Origins of the Cold War in Asia (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1995).

4. Van Jackson, “The Rise and Persistence of Strategic Hedging across Asia: A System-Level Analysis,” in Strategic Asia 2014-15: U.S. Alliances and Partnerships at the Center of Global Power, ed. Ashley Tellis, Abraham Denmark, and Greg Chaffin (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2014), 333-335.

5. Peter Van Ness, “Hegemony, Not Anarchy: Why China and Japan are not Balancing US Unipolar Power,” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 2, no. 1 (2002): 131-150.

6. G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).

7. William C. Wohlforth, “The Stability of a Unipolar World,” International Security 24, no. 1 (1999): 5-41.

8. G. John Ikenberry, “The Future of the Liberal World Order: Internationalism after America,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2011): 56-68.

9. G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

10. Michael Mastanduno, “Incomplete Hegemony: The United States and Security Order in Asia,” in Asian Security Order: Instrumental and Normative Features, ed. Muthiah Alagappa (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 141-170.

11. T.V. Paul, “Soft Balancing in the Age of US Primacy,” International Security 30, no. 1 (2005): 46-71. See also Evelyn Goh, “Great Powers and Hierarchical Order in Southeast Asia: Analyzing Regional Security Strategies,” International Security, no. 3 (2008): 113-157.

12. Van Jackson, “Red Teaming the Rebalance: The Theory and Risks of US Asia Strategy,” Journal of Strategic Studies 39, no. 3 (2016): 365-388.

13. For a discussion that deemphasizes military power, see Amitav Acharya, The End of American World Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015), 1-11.

14. Andrew T.H. Tan, The Arms Race in Asia: Trends, Causes and Implications (London: Routledge, 2014), 61-88.

15. Bernard Cole, Asian Maritime Strategies: Navigating Troubled Waters (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2013); Jackson, “The Rise and Persistence of Strategic Hedging across Asia.”

16. For a summary, see Van Jackson, “Power, Trust, and Network Complexity: Three Logics of Hedging in Asian Security,” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 16, no. 3 (2014): 331-356. For a contrarian view, see Darren J. Lim and Zack Cooper, “Reassessing Hedging: The Logic of Alignment in East Asia,” Security Studies 24, no. 4 (2015): 696-727.

17. Jackson, “Power, Trust, and Network Complexity.”

18. Ibid.

19. Evelyn Goh, “Hierarchy and the Role of the United States in the East Asian Security Order,” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 8, no. 3 (2008): 353-377.

20. See, for example, “Beijing’s Divide and Conquer Strategy Throws ASEAN into Disarray,” The Japan Times, July 23, 2016.

21. Jackson, “Red Teaming the Rebalance.”

22. Sampa Kundu, “China Divides ASEAN in the South China Sea,” East Asia Forum, May 21, 2016.

23. Jim Norman, “Four Nations Top US’s Greatest Enemy List,” Gallup Poll, February 22, 2016.

24. These two elements are common to most explicit definitions. For a classic definition, see George Nathaniel Curzon, Frontiers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908): 42-43. For contemporary definitions, which echo the same thinking, see Susanna Hast, Spheres of Influence in International Relations: History, Theory, and Politics (London: Routledge, 2016), 6; Amitai Etzioni, “Spheres of Influence: A Reconceptualization,” Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 39, no. 2 (2015), 117; Paul Keal, “Contemporary Understanding about Spheres of Influence,” Review of International Studies 9, no. 3 (1983), 158; Edy Kaufman, The Superpowers and Their Spheres of Influence: The United States and the Soviet Union in Central Europe and Latin America (London: Croom Helm, 1976).

25. David Kang, “Hierarchy and Legitimacy in International Systems: The Tribute System in Early Modern Asia,” Security Studies 19, no. 4 (2010): 591-622; Evelyn Goh, The Struggle for Order: Hegemony, Hierarchy, and Transition in Post-Cold War East Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

26. Curzon, Frontiers, 42.

27. Walter LaFeber, The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963).

28. See Hast, Spheres of Influence in International Politics.

29. S.C.M. Paine, The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895: Perceptions, Power, and Primacy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Ian Nish, The Origins of the Russo-Japanese War (London: Routledge, 2014).

30. Walter Lippman, “‘Spheres of Influence’ Still Valid Global Approach,” The Bulletin, March 14, 1966.

31. David Lake, Hierarchy in International Relations (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009).

32. Evelyn Goh, “Great Powers and Hierarchical Order in Southeast Asia: Analyzing Regional Security Strategies,” International Security 32, no. 3 (2008): 113-157; Shannon Tow, “Southeast Asia in the Sino-US Strategic Balance,” Contemporary Southeast Asia 26, no. 3 (2004): 434-459.

33. Jae Ho Chung and Jiyoon Kim, “Is South Korea in China’s Orbit? Assessing Seoul’s Perceptions and Policies,” Asia Policy 21, no. 1 (2016): 12-45.

34. Charles Hawksley, “Australia’s Aid Diplomacy and the Pacific Islands: Change and Continuity in Middle Power Foreign Policy,” Global Change, Peace & Security 21, no. 1 (2009): 115-130; Darryn Webb, “China’s South Pacific Expansion and the Changing Regional Order: A Cause for Concern to the Regional Status Quo?” Indo-Pacific Strategic Papers (Canberra: Centre for Defense and Strategic Studies, 2015).

35. Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich, “Future Warfare in the Western Pacific: Chinese Antiaccess/Area Denial, US AirSea Battle, and Command of the Commons in East Asia,” International Security 41, no. 1 (2016): 43.

36. Suisheng Zhao, “China’s Approaches toward Regional Cooperation in East Asia: Motivations and Calculations,” Journal of Contemporary China 20, no. 68 (2011): 53-67; Jeffrey Reeves, Chinese Foreign Relations with Weak Peripheral States: Asymmetrical Economic Power and Insecurity (London: Routledge, 2015).

37. Feng Zhongping and Huang Jing, “China’s Strategic Partnership Diplomacy: engaging with a changing world,” European Strategic Partnerships Observatory, Working Paper #8, June 2014, 13.

38. Reeves, Chinese Foreign Relations with Weak Peripheral States, 27-28.

39. Feng Zhongping and Huang Jing, “China’s Strategic Partnership Diplomacy,” 12-16; Reeves, China’s Foreign Relations with Weak Peripheral States.

40. G. John Ikenberry, “Between the Eagle and the Dragon: America, China, and Middle State Strategies in East Asia,” Political Science Quarterly 131, no. 1 (2016): 9-43.

41. Bruce Gilley, “Not So Dire Straits: How the Finlandization of Taiwan Benefits US Security,” Foreign Affairs 89, no. 1 (2015): 51; Robert Ross, “The US-China Peace: Great Power Politics, Spheres of Influence, and the Peace of East Asia,” Journal of East Asian Studies 3, no. 3 (2003): 351-375.

42. Van Jackson, “The Myth of a US-China Grand Bargain,” The Diplomat, August 6, 2015.

43. Reeves, Chinese Foreign Relations with Weak Peripheral States.

44. Biddle and Oelrich, “Future Warfare in the Western Pacific.”

  • Godfree Roberts

    Or…we could see (are seeing?) a steady drift back to China’s preferred mode of relating to its neighbors, as they become tributary states. That pattern is ancient and worked well, and all parties know the rules, so why not?