Ian Chong: How Hedging Exacerbated US-China Tensions: Order and Strategic Competition in the Asia-Pacific

Ian Chong: How Hedging Exacerbated US-China Tensions: Order and Strategic Competition in the Asia-Pacific
Date & time
Friday March 15, 2019 12:00 pm - 01:30 pm

Given dominance of the United States and the rise of China after the Cold War, states in the Asia-Pacific virtually all adopted some version of “hedging” or “not choosing sides” between the two major powers. The reasoning was straightforward. Having good relations with both major powers could insulate these non-leading states from US-China friction. They could even benefit from cooperating with Washington and Beijing concurrently. From Tokyo to Taipei, Singapore to Seoul, and Canberra to Kuala Lumpur, the prevalent expectation was that such efforts would dampen US-China tensions and lead to greater regional stability. With growing US-China contestation over everything from trade and technology to institutions and rising pressure on regional states from Beijing and Washington, this approach of trying to toe a middle line seems not to be working. This talk seeks to explain how efforts by non-leading states in the Asia-Pacific to simultaneously cultivate relations with both China and the United States inadvertently contributed to the sharpening of US-China tensions, especially in the region. It argues that differing attempts to “hedge” and “not choose sides” collectively exacerbated uncertainty and commitment problems for both the United States and China, complicating their respective attempts to maintain and modify regional and international order. Such conditions sharpened the security dilemma between Washington and Beijing, encouraging both sides to compete more vigorously against each other and demand more of other regional actors. The perspective seeks to augments that focus on the relative rise and decline, security dilemmas, and interactions among major powers.

Location
Room 604