Ringing in a new order? Hegemony, hierarchy, and transition in East Asia

International relations Defence East Asia

Executive summary


  • Regional institutions have been created not only to socialise China, but also to legitimise the United States’ continuing role in East Asia.
  • East Asian regionalism poses a limited challenge to the US-led global order.
  • There remains significant regional demand for the US to define and prioritise public goods and how they are provided, especially in managing conflicts on the Korean peninsula and in the South China Sea.
  • The continuing divorce between China and Japan facilitates US regional leadership.
  • We have witnessed the parallel strategic resurgence of both the US and China in East Asia.
  • East Asian states have been renegotiating the US hegemonic order to incorporate China as a constrained, pro-status quo power.
  • This hierarchical order framework points to urgent strategic choices beyond balancing, bandwagoning and ‘hedging’.

Policy recommendations

  • Australia should persuade Washington to recognise China’s legitimate growing interests and to negotiate shared responsibilities for regional order.
  • Australia should help to cultivate regional constituencies to legitimise the US role, and to negotiate acceptable terms for China’s legitimate inclusion.
  • Australia should consult with and learn from the experiences of its East Asian neighbours.
  • Australia should overcome the artificial divide between the economic and security realms in strategy formulation and policy coordination.
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