Power Transition and International Order in Asia: Issues and Challenges


Author(s): Peter Shearman (ed.)

ISBN: 978-0415821636

Publisher: Routledge

Year: 2014

Price: $155.00

Reviewed by Ryan Hartley, Leverhulme Post-doctoral Fellow, Graduate School of Law – Tohoku University (Japan)

In this edited volume of eleven essays, Shearman brings together an internationally varied band of analysts to consider one of the most important trends emerging in East and Southeast Asian international relations; namely the decline of US authority vis-à-vis the concomitant rise of China`s regional assertions, coupled with the ever growing potential for future crises given the greater role of East Asia in global affairs.

Peter Shearman – The rise of China, power transition, and international order in Asia’ a new Cold War?

In essay one, Shearman himself sets out to examine the rise of China, and the potential for a new Cold War. He starts out by pointing to the many flaws in the field of International Relation’s basic theorising, and then without leaning on any too much, employs the qualified use of John Lewis Gaddis’s ‘Long Peace’ essay on the Cold War to analyse contemporary international power movements; qualified because as Shearman points out “…just two years after his [Gaddis’s] article was published the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War collapsed”. The underlying analyses of Gaddis, Shearman however finds valuable, and in the manner in which he employs them they are. He deals deftly with the issue of nuclear/security confrontation and then moves on to economic and ideational power; two forms of power one suspects Shearman feels are under-utilised in International Relations. Employing a granular degree of empirical evidence, Shearman attempts to challenge a few major assumptions of the ‘rising China as threat’ school of thought so prevalent now. First, militarily China is not as strong as many think, given the lack of any serious collaborative grouping that China has. Secondly, politically, the Communist party itself increasingly rests on fragile foundations. Thirdly, that China is not doing anything that other Western states have not done, or indeed continue to do. The expansion of military power goes hand in hand with the expansion of trade, aka. being a ‘rising power’, which is the exact same driver of Western military power. Indeed China’s economic rise has been demonstratively more cooperative than previous great powers, even with countries where there are underlying security issues such as with India. These are not the concerns Shearman focuses on. Instead he highlights the cultural and ideational factors. The huge size of China’s diaspora, the prevailing worldview of many in China’s elite of having experienced a ‘century of humiliation’ at the hands of the qualified Huntington question of a clash of civilisations are all as, if not more important, than nuclear submarines or trade deficits. The final point was especially interesting as Shearman points out that the Cold War ideationally was actually not global at all, it was a battle of two ideologies that both originated in the West. And ‘G2’ confrontation between the US would be a real, global, clash of different civilisational value systems. However as Shearman again moderates, China is not seeking to do as the USSR did and remold the world in its own image. He concludes with the idea again that China, and its rise, are more fragile than many think: “Perhaps it is not so much that the West and the US threatens China, so much as China is a danger to itself.” The chapter sets out a reasoned and balanced approach to beginning to approach China’s rise, and serves as a good bookend to the proceeding essays of the volume.

Michael Cox – Power shift: Asia, China and the decline of the West?

In the second essay Michael Cox aims to argue against the fashionable notions that we are transitioning to a post-Western word and that that world will be East Asian centred. Grounding himself in EH Carr, Cox marshals the following counter-arguments: (1) the modern narratives supporting these assumptions about a post-Western world focus only on what IS happening and not on what is NOT happening; (2) shifts in economic activity which are undoubtedly taking place, are not the same as ‘power shifts’; and (3) the idea of a future being centred on ‘Asia’ is (a) to ignore the continued importance of trans-Atlanticism, and (b) the idea of a socio-political ‘Asia’ as opposed to the geographical reference point is difficult to justify given the hugely disparate cultures and lingering historical issues between cultures in the region. In relation to the first, Cox’s singular thrust is to mount a full-throated defence of the US. Declining it is not, Cox argues, and lists reams of economic, science, and intellectual facts to support him. In relation to the second, Cox argues first that the US’s hard power is still heads and shoulders above other states’ including China’s, and second that despite setbacks surrounding the 2008 crash and the Iraq/Afghanistan war fallout, the US is still able to generate a soft power attraction that China does not. As the author himself acknowledges, this is a rather unfashionable view to hold at present. Indeed some statements made represent a rather worryingly Western-centric/Euro-centric/Anglo-Saxon-centric presumption. Take for example:
“[China]…is still a country that for all its openness continues to harbor a certain suspicion of ‘foreigners’. The overwhelming majority of its people remain deeply insular in outlook and experience, and hardly any understanding of the world outside China’s borders. This is true of many of its senior policy makers, the bulk of whom travel abroad infrequently, do no speak foreign languages with a degree of fluency, and who have been brought up politically in the hidden world o the Chinese Communist Party.”
Aside from the rampant generalizations, the same ‘suspicion’ of foreigners could be said about most Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea, and it hasn’t really hurt them, and on the languages point, American, British, or Japanese elites are not exactly renowned for their linguistic dexterity and again, it doesn’t seem to hurt them. To take another example: “…their [China’s and India’s] much heralded rise only began in earnest when they abandoned one, rather self-sufficient way of doing economics, and started the long journey towards a global economy that was western, liberal in outlook, and market-oriented in fundamentals”. Leaving aside colonialism, imperialism, and gunboat diplomacy as also being fundamentals to the construction of the ‘global’ economy, I will leave this one for the reader to judge. In relation to his third argument, Cox highlights the degree of lingering cleavages among East Asian states and that they may be clinging too strongly to the notion of sovereignty for any serious collective action to emerge. Furthermore, even given the European-US divides and suspicions, the trans-Atlantic NATO still represents the largest military grouping in history and far outweighs China’s power (whether China would actually attack Europe and trigger the NATO collective defence clause, thereby making this point relevant, is not addressed by the author). The author concludes that while the rising powers that many observers become animated about have a right to rise and to not be destined to reside at the margins, we should not conclude that one’s rise is another’s fall; the West and the US still have a great deal of power. The chapter represents a polemical counter-weight to the opening chapters’ balanced analysis of China’s rise. Given this attempt at polemic, many inconvenient facts are overlooked or ignored, especially relating to the many fundamental issues that exist within American society and its body politik.

Yeo Lay Hwee – The EU`s role in security and regional order in East Asia

In essay three, Yeo Lay Hwee examines the EU’s security based role in East Asia and to identify how East Asia regards the EU in its affairs. Given the spaghetti soup of acronyms, treaties, and frameworks in both the EU and in ASEAN in particular, a chapter with this focus was always going to be rhetorically difficult to compose. Even given this however, a great deal of the chapter is given over to simple historical description of the copious amounts of ‘treaties’, ‘frameworks’, ‘meetings’, ‘dialogues’, ‘summits’ etc. – many of which are fairly meaningless – and seems to find it difficult to rise above the acronyms and answer the “so what?” question (I am still not sure why there is a section detailing the treaty history of the EU, it might have been better simply to jump in and start from East Asia and working backwards to the EU). The second half moves to some analysis and focuses on three ways the EU influences East Asia: (1) how the EU is a model of integration, and (2) the discourses on non-traditional security that emanate from Europe. Both of these are fairly weak – ASEAN is not currently an EU ‘lite’ but on its way (as New Regionalism Theories help to explain), and non-traditional security is able to be given lip-service in the various ASEAN security frameworks because there is not much progress along the traditional security dimension. The writer concludes that given the EU’s desire to be a global normative power, the EU’s internal issues, and the importance of the US in East Asia, the EU’s influence in East Asia is bound to be limited. The chapter is good in providing details and timelines, but under the weight of the dates and acronyms, it is sometimes a little difficult to find a developed argument or analysis. For example, the chapter concludes that the EU’s influence will be: “…more a function of its own internal coherence and strategic thinking”. This is interesting, but not actually dealt with in the body of the essay. Instead of the extended space given to general history, the author would have been better to establish what that internal incoherence results from ie: an institutional analysis of the various bodies of the EU, their leaders, developed ministry prerogatives, etc. Following this with a comparative institutional analysis of bodies in East Asia would have greatly developed an understanding of why and how influence is, or is not, operating between Europe and East Asia.
Caroline G. Hernandez – The South China Sea issue and its implications for the security of East Asia

In the fourth essay Caroline Hernandez analyses possibly the biggest threat, barring North Korea, to East Asia’s security – the South China Seas issue. To do this Hernandez approaches the issue from three dimensions: (1) the six-party territorial claims, (2) the communication sea lanes linking the Indian ocean through Malacca into East Asia, and (3) the marine resources, for example fishing and energy. On the first, Hernandez does a good job of detailing all party’s claims fairly, in addition to recognising the difficulty of judging these claims given the challenge of marrying the geographical features of the territory with existing international law. On the second, Hernandez leaves this rather under-developed (at two short paragraphs) which is surprising given the historically crucial importance of the Malacca Strait and the ensuing strategic ‘Malacca Problem’. On the third, again the issue of resources is under-developed. On fishing, the author made mention of the importance of fishing for local peoples but makes no analysis of local people here (this is important as the disparity between ‘corporate’ fishing rights and ‘local’ fishing rights has a huge impact on how important fish as a resource is taken by the claimants). Moreover, the ‘resources as energy’ point also needs similarly fleshing out. The author then goes on the outline recent developments, including changes resulting from what ‘big countries’ decide (China and the US), rather than what the ‘small countries’ can decide. Hernandez then moves to the final section where she deals with potential crisis management, largely on the possible role of ASEAN, and how the issue is posing a serious side challenge to ASEAN integration. The author concludes with the open point of us “living in interesting times”, and that given the domestic political shifts occurring in both China and the US, the South China Seas issue will continue to be one that politicians cannot afford to look weak on. Overall this is a well-constructed essay on a difficult topic that it is easy to get trapped in the legal minutia of. Aside from the aforementioned criticisms of the lack of development of the outlined second and third dimensions (particularly disappointing in relation to the third, because territorial claims are usually more about what is under them than in romantic notions of ‘territorial integrity’), the chapter is a well thought through exposition.

Matthew Sussex – The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: a future balancing coalition in Asia?

In essay five Matthew Sussex sets out to evaluate the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a balancing actor in Asia. Employing regime theory with a hint of an underlying critical persuasion, Sussex proposes that the little referenced SCO could represent a hegemonic regime. After a well summarised overview of regime theories and the issues with any form of regime approach (the author makes the points that the approach may be becoming outdated, in addition to the Euro/US selection biases in deciding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ regimes), Sussex goes on to justify why the SCO is a hegemonic regime; with China as number one, Russia as number two, and other states as a collective third tier. Subsequent to this is the main body of the chapter – a detailed analysis as to how the SCO as a hegemonic regime can act as a balancing agent. The author does this along four dimensions: (1) material capabilities, (2) scope and purpose, (3) ‘resilience’, and (4) ‘adaptability’ (the final two being notions seemingly being uniquely employed by Sussex). In terms of material power, Sussex crunches the numbers and concludes that the SCO is far from an able balancing agent against the US or NATO. In terms of scope and purpose, while the author makes some interesting background/contextual related points about the loose nature of the SCO and how China can impose its will even on Russia, the section doesn’t really conclude anything that contributes to the overall analysis. In terms of resilience, the conclusion here is one of a positive – that despite critical reactions, the SCO has demonstrated a great degree of buy-in to its rules. This supports the author’s assertion of the SCO being an important regime worthy of greater analysis than it currently receives. Finally, in terms of adaptability, Sussex concludes quite rightly that the loose and flexible structures of the SCO that are derided as ‘vague’ in Western circles are in fact quite suitable for an Asian context, where such frameworks are preferred. The author moderates his point by pointing out that any expansion of the SCO might be problematic without some new form of legitimation attempted by it’s members, and on the whole this fourth point is probably the strongest of the author’s four dimensions. The author concludes that while the SCO can be justified as a hegemonic regime, it cannot be justified ‘yet’ to say it can play a balancing role. The operative word being ‘yet’, as the author closes with an optimistic tone by stating that China’s continued rise may in the future lend greater significance to the currently sidelined SCO. Overall this chapter is a balanced and interesting attempt to ‘fight the losing corner’ so to speak, as the author attempts to justify a greater focus on – or at least less derision of – the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Towards this noble effort, the author has undoubtedly succeeded.

Viacheslav Amirov – Russia`s policy towards Pacific Asia

In the sixth essay Viacheslav Amirov tasks himself with the rather broad aim of overviewing Russian policy towards Pacific Asia (no central thesis, problem, or focus point is identified in the opening section, which makes it a little difficult to enter the essay). The second section focuses on how “Pacific Russia requires a breakthrough in economic development”, which presumes an argumentative prose making recommendations. However the section is instead a list of policies and developments that have already happened. Closing with the recommendation that greater cooperation between the provinces of the Eastern end of Russia with China, Japan, and South Korea would be helpful, the section nonetheless is a slightly muddled mix of evidences that included projects, policies, and speeches. The next section does a good job of highlighting the various geo-political rivalries underlying the various organisations in, or now developing in, the region; while the subsequent section focuses in on three of Russia’s main regional partners – China, Japan, and ASEAN. In relation to China, Amirov rather strangely doesn’t on the whole deal directly with China-Russia relations, instead largely focusing on US-China relations as a side-route into examining Russia’s international relations. In relation to Japan, the author’s analysis is fairly speculative on the economics, and retreads old ground in relation to security (the Kurile Islands dispute); one is left a little unclear whether Japan is one of Russia’s main partners given the content of the section. In relation to ASEAN, at two short paragraphs it is quite difficult to judge what Russia’s policy is towards the grouping. The final section, rather hastily included it feels, a billet pointed list of Russia’s security issues related to the Pacific area. I am not sure why this is a whole section of its own (the focus of the essay was not explicitly stated to be security), and it might have been more consistent to include these details at the relevant points of previous sections. The essay concludes with the following: “The main direction of Russia’s policy towards Pacific Asia is to secure a stable, peaceful situation in the region and to enhance Russia’s economic cooperation with neighbouring countries to ensure rapid economic development […]”. This is not really saying much since this is presumably the desired – or at least the stated as desired – of any government’s foreign policy. Overall the essay does a good job of highlighting how there are almost two Russia’s given the geographical scale of the country – one situated in the ‘West’ (closest to Europe) and one situated in the ‘East’/’Pacific’ (closest to China or the Koreas); and that the half in the East is in need of greater development that would be aided by better integration into Pacific regimes and countries. It would have been helpful if the author had better established a focus at the outset, rather than attempt to detail ‘all’ Russian policy; and attempt that at times led to a sketch rather than detailed drawing. However on the whole the essay succeeds in providing an introductory overview of Russia’s issues and interests that relate to the Asia-Pacific region.

Toshiya Nakamura – Japan`s security policy and the “Dynamic Defence Force” concept

In essay seven Toshiya Nakamura examines Japan’s increasingly assertive international security position through the ‘Dynamic Defence Force’ (DDF) concept. Given the book’s overall prerogative of power transition in Asia, this is an important analysis to include. Nakamura structures the essay in two halves – the first half examines the international and domestic factors that are playing their part in driving this change in Japan, while the second half moves on to focus on the DDF concept itself and Japan’s security policy in general. To consider the contextual factors first, by ‘international factors’ the author means North Korea and China, and by ‘domestic factors’ he is referring to: (1) Japan’s economic decline and concomitant political transformation, (2) regime change and foreign policy drift, and (3) the return of the Liberal Democratic Party under Shinzo Abe (why this required a separate section when it could have been included under either of the previous headings, is a little unclear). Nakamura marshals a good deal of relevant evidence to demonstrate the clashes that have underpinned a more confrontational position in Japan-North Korea and Japan-China relations, and the impact these clashes have on domestic populations in China and Japan. The domestic factors section is slightly weaker, being a brisk ‘headline history’ of political developments in Japan from which an explicit connection to the topic – security policy – is not forthcoming (I am unsure for example, what the relevance of the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown is on Japan’s security policy). Moving away now from contextual factors, and towards Nakamura’s second half of the chapter – the Dynamic Defence Force concept, the author unfortunately does not focus closely enough on the concept itself and instead overviews Japan’s general regional security agenda. Interesting though this is, it is not the stated focus of the essay. Rather than sections on emerging multilateral security cooperation or public sentiment towards Japan’s Self Defence Forces (SDF), it might have been better to broaden and deepen the first sub-section’s examination of the DDF. In confusion, the author clearly has an agenda that can be roughly summarised as “Japan is behaving collectively with other countries and favours rules, while China (the main factor among the many provided) operates only in its self-interest and does not follow any rules”. Such a subtle polemical approach is not an issue. What I found to be more problematic was the ‘headline history’ overviewing of Japan’s politics both domestic and international since the 1980s, and not delving into the stated focus of the essay – the DDF. This is an important – albeit logically tortured -concept that is driving a great deal of Japan’s efforts to assert a more ‘proactive pacifism’ in its international security policy. In addition, while the author has an agenda – one driven perhaps more by the author’s own nationality rather than an even-handed analysis of a problem – it would have been nice to at least see a little consideration of events from the China side. Overall an interesting and well-structured essay that serves the purpose of addressing Japan’s broad security drift slightly more than a detailed analysis of the Dynamic Defence Force concept.

Sumit Ganguly – The emergent nuclear order in South Asia

In the eighth essay Sumit Ganguly evaluates whether the acquisition of nuclear weapons by India, Pakistan, and China – and the multiple crises that have resulted – have made the region more or less stable; and how these fragile status quo are being affected by the rise of China. Surprisingly, given this stated goal, the entire essay is devoted to India-Pakistan nuclear relations with China barely being mentioned at all. As Ganguly notes, this is the more dangerous of the two, with India-China nuclear relations being sedate even despite the longer term of existence of nuclear weapons between the two. Nevertheless, since the author them-self states a specific desire to focus on India-China relations (presumably in order to align with the overall aims of the book volume), the focus entirely on India-Pakistan nuclear relations seems odd (and, depending on the definition of ‘Asia’ being used, makes the essays inclusion a little out of place. The author covers all of the ‘greatest hits’ – the Kashmir Crisis, the May 1998 tests, the Kargil Conflict, and the 2001-2002 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament followed by the Mumbai terrorist attack (what these latter two events have to do with NUCLEAR order relations is not explicitly clear). The essay concludes with a section detailing four challenges to nuclear stability in South Asia – (1) the Pakistani military’s control over its nuclear weapons, (2) India’s pursuit of a ballistic missile defence system, (3) India’s desire to develop ICBM capabilities, and (4) the lack of better China-India dialogues – although whether this is a conclusion or a separate main body section with a conclusion missing, is unclear. Overall the inclusion of this topic and its theme within the panoply of essays in the book volume seemed appropriate. However the choice by the author to ignore one of their own stated aims and focus entirely on India-Pakistan nuclear relations, made me doubt this. As an introduction to this topic, the essay is well composed. But I am not sure if it has shed any light on either power TRANSITION or international ORDER in Asia.

Christoph Bluth – North Korea: how will it end?

In essay nine Christoph Bluth sets out to predict the future of the North Korea problem. Bluth first outlines both the North Korea viewpoint and then the US viewpoint on North Korea’s role in international/Asia’s affairs; inevitably this focuses on the nuclear issue. The author does an excellent job of providing a balanced analysis of the behaviour of both sides, and offers interesting institution/actor details on why negotiations between the US and North Korea do or don’t stall. The next section deals deftly with the many facets of North Korea’s nuclear arrangements, and the unique nature of North Korea’s place in international affairs – unique in that it combines virtually all the security dimensions of concern whereas other nuclear problem states often combine only a few. One small criticism here was there having Ben an interesting point made that I felt could have been expanded but was quickly skipped over: “the most significant threat stability is the crisis of the regime, rather than its seemingly threatening behaviour, which is designed to create a more favourable domestic and external environment”. This periphery-to-core change of focus from behaviour to regime survival is worthy of greater exposition; although difficult of course given the seclusion of the regime. In the subsequent section, Bluth moves to the question of possible solutions and quite correctly at the outset describes why most main theories of international relations cannot work with North Korea for one simple reason – the regime does not play by any set of rules. Regarded as erratic by those that deal with it, the regime will walk away from agreements or not attend confirmed talks at a moment’s notice for the slightest of reasons. In explaining this behaviour, Bluth makes the insightful point that the regime understands the real stakes: “The problem is that a resolution of the nuclear issue does not solve the underlying problem. The North Korean regime will continue to remain unacceptable to the United States and most of the international community. No matter what agreements are signed, the outside world will seek gradual regime change”. This is undoubtedly true, and is cause for a great deal of self-reflection on exactly why North Korea, or indeed any state, desires the nuclear option as ‘the ultimate insurance premium’. As such, and as the author points out, solutions are limited. Compulsion doesn’t work. Sanctions and incentives have had limited success. Multilateral UN diplomacy is ineffective. And the use of military force is far too risky. Ignoring North Korea is not an option either, given the lengths the regime is making to improve their nuclear capabilities. Bluth starkly concludes that there is NO solution except waiting for the possibility of some form of internal regime change, but that is unlikely. The only real response is damage limitation, which for Bluth means three things: (1) preventing North-South conflict, (2) stopping nuclear proliferation from a North Korea, and (3) attempting to weaken the power of the regime vis a vis its population by (a) focusing economic support on the needs of the people rather than the requests of the regime, and (b) promoting the notion of a unified Korea. The author concludes with a clear and succinct description of where things currently stand – most interested actors know past actions have not worked, they know they need to remain engaged, but are unsure of what to do now. Any political change in North Korea will only come in the longer term, but no-one actually knows how to get there or what it might look like. This is an excellent essay, full of relevant detail tempered by a pessimistic realism.

Andrew T. H. Tan – Terrorism and insurgencies in Southeast Asia and their implications for counter-terrorism and regional order

In the penultimate tenth essay Andrew Tan examines the global war on terrorism as it manifests within the Southeast Asian theatre. After a rather circular and overly qualified introduction Tan presents the thesis of the essay, which is that terrorism in this region of the world is more likely the result of artificial state boundaries left behind from former colonial regimes than of any global level coordinated Islamic terrorist movement. Adopting a four-fold case study approach which includes: (1) radical Islamism in Indonesia, (2) Moro Muslim insurgency in the Philippines, (3) the Southern Thailand issue, and (4) the Maoist insurgency in the Philippines; the author does a fine job of teasing out the complexities of each case in such a way as to demonstrate the overarching thesis. After finishing with the case studies Tan moves on to consider the implications for counter-terrorism and regional order. The conclusion again, is that these localised issues should not all be lumped together with any form of global terror discourse. Indeed Tan presents the well-made point that Southeast Asian states often deal with these terrorist threats more successfully than the US due to their comprehensive Human Security style approach; compared to the uni-dimensional US approach that has failed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and which Thailand under Thaksin Shinawatra also moved to adopt, causing an escalation of the Southern Thailand issue. The author concludes with the cautionary note that the region has an unfortunate tendency to get caught up with global power concerns; currently, US competition/containment with China. Overall this is a well-argued essay that speaks directly to the themes of the volume. It is rare to find writers who point out the failings of strong and the strength of the ‘weak’, but Tan does this skillfully in such a way as to significantly add value to the book.

Leslie Holmes – International implications of organised crime and corruption in East and Southeast Asia

And in the final eleventh essay Leslie Holmes sets out to interestingly examine the non-state issue of organised crime and corruption in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on two of the five mafia groups identified – the Triads and the Yakuza. It is not immediately clear from the introduction why corruption is being included in the essay because especially in the context of Southeast Asia, corruption is a much more nebulous and multi-faceted phenomena that affects all levels of socio-political life; linking it automatically with organised crime would not seem immediately reasonable. Indeed the subsequent section does a very good job of detailing the empirically measured results for differing levels of corruption worldwide, but the reader remains left to their devices to make the connection between organised crime and corruption. In the following two sections, Holmes neatly details two categories of solutions to corruption and organised crime:
1) Domestic solutions – the strictly anti-corruption policies of Singapore and Hong Kong on one end of the spectrum, with the tolerantly flexible approach taken in Japan on the other side, with efforts in China residing failingly somewhere in-between
2) International solutions – two UN conventions, a 1999 OECD convention, Interpol (plus Europol and Aseanapol); with each often having largely indirect affects on East and Southeast Asian states due to their not necessarily being signatories but instead having the actions of Western investors affected by them.
The chapter concludes, rather disjointedly, on a note about corruption. Rather more than a note in fact, as extra statistics and arguments are made that really should have been an extra main body section than a conclusion. Overall, the essay is detailed and strongly evidentially based. The over-riding issue however is the conflation of organised crime and corruption. The author might have been better to simply ignore corruption altogether, or else focus on it more closely in relation to East and South East Asia; for which there is a fairly large literature. On the whole though, the essay is a welcome inclusion to the volume.
Peter Shearman returns with a final summation to conclude the volume’s contributions. These are:
1) That the US ‘pivot to Asia’ is not necessarily a welcome one, and is possibly causing some negative reactions
2) That the ‘pivot’ is not only from the US, and many other global powers are also shifting their focus towards Asia; albeit not all with the uni-dimensional militaristic approach the US takes.
3) That the key to future order and stability rests on the US-China relationship, but that the dynamics of this are not always correctly appreciated; with ideas of US decline over-stated, and ideas of China’s rising power equally exaggerated
4) That whether real or not, the perception of the US and China is that peaceful co-existence will be difficult and that China is increasingly feeling encircled and contained, which is driving its increasingly militarised development trajectory.
5) That history is a highly salient factor in how power and order operate in Asia
6) In contrast with liberal post-Cold War claims of a borderless world, in Asia, the geo-strategic concerns of states are still a major force in the transitioning shape of power in the region.

The volume combines an impressive array of case studies that all contribute to the approaching of ‘Asia’ from multiple perspectives. In addition the analytical approaches differ interestingly between case studies – from historical description, to policy analysis, to prediction. A few of the essays as noted above, suffer from not actually dealing with what they set out to achieve. However overall this was an excellent read and manages to inform the reader on some of the most contemporary issues facing Asia while providing both the historical backwards view and the forward-facing empirical view. It is highly recommended for both International Relations and Area Studies scholars of Asia.

Suggested Citation:

Ryan Hartley (2016), Review of “Power Transition and International Order in Asia: Issues and Challenges”, by Peter Shearman (ed.), East Asian Integration Studies, Vol. 9, no. 4.