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  • Author: G. John Ikenberry, Adam P. Liff
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In the post–Cold War period, scholars have considered the Asia Pacific to be ripe for military competition and conflict. Developments over the past decade have deepened these expectations. Across the region, rising military spending and efforts of various states to bolster their military capabilities appear to have created an increasingly volatile climate, along with potentially vicious cycles of mutual arming and rearming. In this context, claims that China's rapid economic growth and surging military spending are fomenting destabilizing arms races and security dilemmas are widespread. Such claims make for catchy headlines, yet they are rarely subject to rigorous empirical tests. Whether patterns of military competition in the Asia Pacific are in fact attributable to a security dilemma–based logic has important implications for international relations theory and foreign policy. The answer has direct consequences for how leaders can maximize the likelihood that peace and stability will prevail in this economically and strategically vital region. A systematic empirical test derived from influential theoretical scholarship on the security dilemma concept assesses the drivers of bilateral and multilateral frictions and military competition under way in the Asia Pacific. Security dilemma–driven competition appears to be an important contributor, yet the outcome is not structurally determined. Although this military competition could grow significantly in the near future, there are a number of available measures that could help to ameliorate or manage some of its worst aspects.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Cold War
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Victor D. Cha
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In East Asia the United States cultivated a "hub and spokes" system of discrete, exclusive alliances with the Republic of Korea, the Republic of China, and Japan, a system that was distinct from the multilateral security alliances it preferred in Europe. Bilateralism emerged in East Asia as the dominant security structure because of the "powerplay" rationale behind U.S. postwar planning in the region. "Powerplay" refers to the construction of an asymmetric alliance designed to exert maximum control over the smaller ally's actions. The United States created a series of bilateral alliances in East Asia to contain the Soviet threat, but a congruent rationale was to constrain "rogue allies"- that is, rabidly anticommunist dictators who might start wars for reasons of domestic legitimacy and entrap the United States in an unwanted larger war. Underscoring the U.S. desire to avoid such an outcome was a belief in the domino theory, which held that the fall of one small country in Asia could trigger a chain of countries falling to communism. The administrations of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower calculated that they could best restrain East Asia's pro-West dictators through tight bilateral alliances rather than through a regionwide multilateral mechanism. East Asia's security bilateralism today is therefore a historical artifact of this choice.
  • Topic: Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Europe, Asia