As China rises to power in Asia, the hunt is on for a means to ensure its ‘peaceful rise’. One approach advanced in the Australian debate is that Beijing might be inducted into a concert of powers, similar to the Concert of Europe. But different positions within international relations theory would view the capacity of a concert of powers to fulfil this role very differently. ‘Offensive realists’ would see any concert as being at best short-lived, while neorealists and constructivists would argue that potential power balancing, multilateral organisations and normative values would accord greater flexibility within the concert to accommodate changing conditions and power parities.
This paper explores the prospects of a concert of powers in Asia from the point of view of the nineteenth century European precedent, the theoretical issues involved, and the applicability of the idea in present day Asia. It concludes that although a concert could be a useful mechanism, it should not be relied on to the exclusion of other means of assisting regional dialogue and transparency.