China Talks: Professor Amitav Acharya

Amitav Acharya

Time: 9 March 2015, 10.15-12.00
Place: CSS, building 35, room 35.01.44


While the rise of China is clearly reshaping the balance of power in Asia and the world at large, the region has also witnessed equally important and longer-term changes, especially economic interdependence, multilateral institutions and domestic politics. These changes, whose beginnings predate the rise of China, become clear by comparing Asia in the immediate aftermath of World War II and Asia today. Then, Asian security was shaped by economic nationalism, security bilateralism and political authoritarianism. These have gradually given way to market liberalism and economic interdependence, security multilateralism (existing with US-centric bilateralism), and a growing if uncertain democratic political pluralism.

The implications of these changes are not fully accounted for by the different types of security orders proposed by analysts to describe the implications of China’s rise, such as anarchy, hierarchy, hegemony, concert and community. They constitute multiple and mutually reinforcing mechanisms of stability: economic interdependence raises the stakes of mutual survival and well-being; US-centred alliances preserve the balance of power; and cooperative institutions develop a habit of dialogue and thereby moderate extreme, unilateral behaviour. None of these is sufficient by itself to guarantee order, but together they create the conditions for stability that also offset some of the key potential factors for conflict.

This seminar also presents an alternative conceptualization of Asian security order, termed Consociational Security Order (CSO) that draws from different theoretical lenses: defensive realism, institutionalism and especially consociational theory in comparative politics. Specifying the conditions that make a CSO stable or unstable, the seminar examines the extent to which these conditions can be found in Asia today. Aside from offering a distinctive framework for analyzing China’s rise, the CSO framework also offers an analytic device for policy-makers and analysts in judging trends and directions in Asian security.

Amitav Acharya is Professor of International Relations, UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance at the School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC, and President, International Studies Association.