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CIAO DATE: 9/00
Getting the Aliberalist Transition Under Way: the Experience of the East Asian Regional International System
Patrick M. MorganInternational Studies Association
Economic relations and military pressures constrain an entire range of domestic behaviors from policy decision to political forms. International relations and domestic politics are therefore so interrelated that they should be analyzed simultaneously, as wholes. 1
...the analysis of Asian security has explicitly or implicitly tended to privilege realism or neorealism. ... The relevance of other paradigms has been little explored. 2
As we come to the end of the 20th century we have every reason to want, in international politics, to make the next one a considerable improvement. The question is whether such an intervention is possible. The fundamentals of international politics have often been considered almost impervious to intervention or manipulation; it has also been considered unlikely to improve if left on its own. This paper explores one way we might approach international politics in a more optimistic fashion, and considers the implications for future relations among significant actors in the regional international system focused on East Asia.
International politics operates these days within a relatively weak global international political system (there is a stronger global economic system) and in a set of increasingly significant and potent regional systems. I start from the view that, in its fundamental characteristics and processes international politics is not always and everywhere the same, that there are important variations in international politics as it takes place in the regional systems, and between some of those systems and the global system. 3 Of special interest in this regard is the degree to which serious conflict is inherent in international politics. It seems clear that it is not, that international systems vary on this most important dimension, among others. The experience of the Transatlantic regional system, demonstrates clearly that a set of sovereign states can carry cooperation far beyond what has historically been the norm in both practice and in the dominant theoretical perspectives on international politics. Of particular interest is how far it has been possible to carry this cooperation with respect to standard security concerns of states. The origin of this paper is the fact that such cooperation is not unique to the West, though it is often believed to be so. In recent decades there has also been far more cooperation in relaxing security concerns in the East Asian system than has been considered Anormalin international politics. (The same has been true for some time in the South American system. 4
For purposes of analysis it is useful to depict international systems as varying along what might be termed a realistliberalist continuum. This means taking names of leading schools or approaches and using them instead as labels for the central tendencies or characteristics of particular kinds of international politics. In fact I like to treat them as specific idealtypes of international politics. Some international systems are strictly realist in nature, modern exemplars of classical realpolitik. In these systems:
Other systems depart from this to a lesser or greater extent. At one end of the continuum, a strongly realist system is, as Hobbes suggested, the fierce opposite of community. To move along the continuum is to encounter systems with a rising sense of community and thus increased cooperative interaction combined with greater constraints on the members freedom of action. A part of this shift is that the limitations on actors move from being primarily forceful, external impositions by other actors to more collectively selfimposed obligations, and then to partially or completely internalized restrictions. Thus along the continuum the system shifts from a war of all against all (actual or prospective) to some form of society among states with very simple and limited rules and with actors mainly balancing each other singly or by collusion; then it shifts to some arrangement under which the most powerful agree to restrain themselves to some extent (particularly their competition with each other) and to cooperate in restraining others. Next comes a broad set of collectively imposed restraints everyone gangs up on violators. Further along the continuum lies the ample development and internalization of norms and rules. With any further movement in this direction, international politics gradually begins to disappear into integration or a fully domestic sort of political system. International politics involves relations among autonomous states so the passing of their autonomy means it is ebbing away.
The salient points along this continuum, in the description just offered, correspond roughly to Hedley Bulls conception of an international society of states, then to a great power concert, then to Wilsonian collective security, next to Karl Deutschs concept of a pluralistic security community, and finally to the early but significant stages of integration. The last two stages, but particularly the pluralistic security community, constitute variants of the true liberalist international order. 6
As this implies, international systems can develop over time and movement away from the first two stages on the continuum would constitute a shift away from a realist international politics toward an increasingly liberalist international politics. (Shifts the other way are also possible which is what happened in several international systems in the 1930s.) Such a shift is a familiar idea these days, breeding speculation as to what conditions or factors might drive change of this sort. The options widely suggested include:
While these can be seen as competing explanations it is more likely that many of them apply, working in tandem to produce shifts in international politics that shrink realist behavior and expand cooperative interaction. It is also likely that movement in a liberalist direction is context and pathdependent, which would help explain why we still lack a nice neat theory of system change or development. (And system regression has been neglected. 11 )
It is easy to see where highly realpolitik international systems come from. They are the default position in a generally anarchical environment where scarcity is salient and where the actors have faced or continue to face all sorts of, often violent, opposition (i.e., opposition to rulers from within their societies, opposition to independence for colonies by imperial rulers, opposition to the existing power and status hierarchy in the international system, opposition to any redistribution of resources and capabilities among states). Under such conditions theory properly emphasizes the difficulties of getting effective, long lasting, cooperation, making its presence a major theoretical puzzle. 12 It is these conditions that seem to have strongly shaped the actors behavior at the outset of most known systems of autonomous states. Only over time does it become possible for shifts away from such a sharply realist system to take place. But finding a universal pattern for when, where, and how such shifts arise and proceed is unlikely.
For our purposes the important point is that in approaching any particular system the first step is to try to determine what kind of system it is at the time: where, along the continuum, does it seem to be located? This is not a precise judgment. Each system will be a blend of elements along the continuum. No system is purely realpolitik, or purely a concert system, and so on. Classifying it involves noting the the blend and identifying the dominant type it reflects or most closely resembles.
The second step is then to ascertain the general trend in the system. Is is developing in a liberalist direction, shifting the other way, or in stasis? This is probably easiest to do with system regression. We would know fairly quickly if Europe went back toward the system that existed there in the 1930s or 1960s. It is harder with movement away from realist characteristics, because realists usually treat many nonrealist behaviors as window dressing or temporary expedients. In any case, given the nature of international affairs, and of social phenomena in general, we can rarely answer the question with precision; our answer is bound to be tentative, fuzzy, contested. But it will nonetheless put us on the right track for purposes of analysis.
Since systems shift in character over time, and presumably this is also true of units of systems or subsystems, it would be wise for actors to be constantly aware of this and to consider the possibility that they are actually operating within a system different from the one they previously experienced or the one they expected to be part of. Actors, and analysts, readily assert that they do this but in fact conceptions or images of the kind of system that exists tend to be fundamental in character and are often not easily shifted.
Amidst these ambiguities, states cope with system change (and its accompanying uncertainties) when it occurs. The most appealing way to do this is by layering, putting the new adaptations in policies, resources, and behavior on top of older ones, rather than by substituting. Thus there is a retention of capabilities, resources, and behavioral habits suitable to one kind of system even as the actor is residing and operating in another. A common example is how states retain forces for defense, and continue to assess relative power with an eye to power balancing, long after they begin moving toward much less conflict and greater cooperation. The forces and power balancing concerns serve as insurance should cooperative efforts fail. Thus a good deal of international law develops and begins to have an effect well before states are willing to always submit to it law driven behavior is gradually laid on top of behavior shaped by other factors. This Alayering is also needed because not all system members can be dealt with under the new dominant pattern of behavior and security management there are outliers (like Serbia in contemporary Europe). It is also needed so members can act outside their primary system, in systems where other conditions and rules apply. Finally, layering helps in developing a sufficient domestic consensus behind foreign and security policy when there are disagreements about what kind of system exists and the capabilities needed to deal with it. You cooperate but keep your powder dry to mollify those who dont trust cooperation. 13
The East Asian Regional International System
The East Asian international system is the second most important regional system in the world and has been since the mid1930s. The odds are good that it will become the most important system in the world sometime in the first half of the 21st century. But our understanding of it is not sufficiently advanced and this continues to warp both policy making and analysis in unfortunate ways.
The most common view of the system has been as follows. It was, earlier in the century and well into the Cold War, harsh and competitive with little cooperation or cooperative management, the epitome of realpolitik. States constrained or Abalanced each other, often through war or the threat of war, when they were not engaged in expansionist or powerenhancing endeavors instead. Conflict, frequently violent, arose over any number of concerns: ethnic and cultural differences, territorial disputes, ideological cleavages, economic competition, rivalries for power and status. Then in the early 1970s the system began to experience a lessening of conflict and an easing of this general insecurity. Many disputes were resolved or, more often, set aside, economic interactions increased, ideological conflicts eased, etc. As a result, the security situation for many actors improved considerably. However, the basic nature of the system did not change, and the members are well aware of that. The relaxed security situation is only temporary the only question is how long it can last. The trend is toward an eventual return of a full blown realpolitik. We can expect developments like the following. American power (and interest) will ebb and thus American dominance will decline, resulting in a more competitive, unstable multipolarity. As a result, the US may revert to offshore balancing. In the wake of this, rivalries for regional dominance already present in mild form will expand in scale and intensity (SinoUS, SinoJapan, RussianJapan). 15 Nuclear weapons will probably proliferate as a result (to Japan, possibly Korea), and other forms of arms racing will grow. There will eventually be renewed territorial conflicts in the South China Sea, over other islands, on other boundaries, and this will result in armed clashes there may be serious warfare. 16 New sources of potentially serious conflict are emerging as well energy, pollution, other areas of the environment. 17
This argument has tradition on its side and has wide appeal. In support of it a number of things are cited. One is hstory international politics has always been this way (supposedly). Serious conflict, plus a preoccupation with power, are inherent. The future in the East Asian system will be an updated version of the past. It has a violently competitive past, resembling other systems that developed along these lines (Europe in 19901914), but nothing in its recent history is comparable to modern Western cooperation and integration. Examples cited to illustrate its underlying character include Chinas antiUS (antihegemony) stance, its nuclear weapons expansion, and its opposition to US forces in the area; the widespread upgrading of military forces across the system with no looming threats around that justify this; Japans careful development of all the components for someday being a major military power; the sharp clashes on continuing issues (like Taiwan); the widespread realpolitik thinking in many governments and by many analysts. 18
This view has had considerable influence, which surges whenever trouble breaks out. Consider for example the variations in the Clinton approach over the years. In the beginning, and rhetorically, the US was strongly interested in the prospects for multilateral security management in the East Asian system, in particular a Astrong multilateralism in which governments go well beyond discussions and into accepting common goals and norms of behavior. But the continuing difficulties with North Korea and the near confrontation in the Taiwan Straits with China in March 1996 led to major adjustments. It shifted to putting more emphasis on refurbishing its alliances and settling for the Aweak multilateralism, and more work at the bilateral level, that East Asians mostly prefer. (This is evident in the most recent version of US security strategy for the region. 19 ) However, this view is probably not correct. It lack consonance with the preponderance of the available evidence. It projects what is to come as a departure from the present situation because it fits only marginally with the behavior we observe there now, and fits badly with many of the most significant features of that systems modern history. For instance, in the past thirty years outright interstate warfare there has virtually disappeared, with only the brief former incursion into Vietnam by Chinese forces in 1979 to the contrary. This is in contrast to the frequent interstate warfare that had characterized the earlier part of the century, including the most serious interstate fighting the Cold War ever produced.
Directly linked to this is the notable improvement in virtually every serious dyadic conflict that existed in or about 1970:
|Dyadic Conflict||Present Situation|
|Sino-Soviet Conflict||Greatly eased, partly resolved, with major reductions in border forces, improved trade, important political cooperation|
|Sino-US Conflict||Greatly eased, high levels of trade and interactions, important cooperation on some matters|
|Japan-Russia Conflict||Significantly eased, an outline solution to the territorial dispute now exists.|
|Two Koreas Conflict||Some modest contacts: participation in Four Power Talks, some ROK investment in the North, ROK pursuit of an engagement policy, ROK an important source of aid to the North. Agreements in place since 1991 on the overall future of the peninsula.|
|US-North Korea Conflict||An agreement on eventual normal relations, North Korea now the leading recipient of American aid in the region, deterrence supplemented with engagement|
|China-Taiwan Conflict||Huge flows of people and investment capital from Taiwan to China, intermittent negotiations, an end to Taiwan=s claim to be the government of China|
|Vietnam-Cambodia Conflict||An end to Vietnams occupation of Cambodia, normal relations|
|US-Vietnam Conflict||An end to the war in Vietnam, diplomatic relations, modest trade and investment, a major trade agreement|
|Vietnam-ASEAN Conflict||An end to the conflict over Cambodia and Vietnams occupation, Vietnam now a member of ASEAN|
|ROK-China Conflict||Diplomatic relations established, large trade and investment flows|
|Japan-China Conflict||Normal relations, very large Japanese investment|
|Indonesia-Malaysia Conflict||Conflict resolved, normal relations, significant economic ties|
The table could be longer. China and Indonesia have had normal diplomatic relations since 1990, greatly increased trade, and official highlevel visits. Many conflicts among ASEAN members have been resolved or shelved. The ROK and China have established normal relations and have a huge and growing trade relationship, with major investments in China by ROK businesses.
Even the conflicts which generate much current concern are actually in better shape, less likely to result in war, than they used to be. This is true on the Korean peninsula where the North now has greater interactions with the outside world and the ROK, more negotiations with the US, and a much less favorable military posture than in the past. And in the Taiwan Straits the economic interactions between the two parties are vast, as are the flows of people, while their political positions on the dispute are much closer than they used to be. This is regularly forgotten. For instance, in USChina relations there is a Aserious setback when the two sides suspend talks on some increase in cooperation, when twenty years ago they had almost few interactions or talks at all.
Added to this are a variety of other developments associated with the benign security situation in the system today. One is Japans continued refusal to adopt a standard greatpower military posture, in spite of predictions for years that this was about to happen. Japan remains unable to fully defend itself and maintains very limited power projection capabilities. There is the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from the area out of bases, off of ships. Much of this occurred as a result of agreements with the Soviet Union/Russia, but the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from the ROK was unilateral there was no negotiated quid pro quo.
Other developments represent a rising level of cooperation. In reaction to North Koreas aspirations to develop nuclear weapons, there was considerable great power cooperation to apply pressure and to work out a coordinated policy. ASEAN is the most notable attempt at a security regime outside of Europe. There is the emergence of the ASEANs ARF as a forum for dialogues on security matters. There was the elaborate cooperation in ending the Cambodian conflicts involving ASEAN, China, the US, and the Security Council. We can also cite the conversion of the US from containment to engagement in its relations with China, North Korea, and Vietnam.
Some things missing are also significant. Many standard developments associated with conflict, rivalry, and tension are not present. There has been no formation of countervailing alliances (to offset the US), no competitive greatpower interventions in local conflicts in search of gain (for instance, in the Spratleys disputes) and no eagerness for such interventions, no intense armsracing, 20 no widespread expectations of war. Rarely is the rhetoric highly bellicose, nowhere are foreign policies notably expansionist. Despite Chinese claims to the contrary the US is not systematically practicing containment and has not tried to repress Chinas economic growth or military modernization, as American policy makers insist every time they get the chance. 21
These promising developments are in spite of the fact that many territorial conflicts are unresolved, there are plenty of ethnic tensions and nationalist fervor present, military forces (except for Russia) have, if anything, improved in overall capabilities, there is no regionwide settlement or established security framework, and as noted above there is a widespread view that this relaxed security situation will not last as well as underlying uneasiness among the actors as to each others real motives. Missing is the broad confidence that this is a conscious achievement based on deliberate decisions. APeace seems to have occurred more by accident than by design. 22
As for trends, the engagement policy is holding for the US in spite of challenges to it or grumbling about it in Congress; there has been no return to power balancing, containment and deterrence as the primary recourse in dealing with the Communist states. Of great significance is that although it has long been suggested that amity in the system rests on prosperity, the recent economic crisis has not torpedoed cooperative endeavors and multilateralist approaches, and only Malaysia has explicitly retreated (and then only partially) from economic interdependence.
How, then, shall we characterize the system? Alagappa has noted that lack of consensus here. It clearly has some characteristics of a realist system. There is a security hegemon, usually said to be the US but is really the USJapan alliance because the alliance is the basis for the American military presence and military flexibility and because it unites the only actors that have been capable, in this century, of dominating the system. One reason for the strong reactions in many quarters (See NAPSNet Special Report October 6, 1997) to the USJapan defense guidelines 23 is that they promise an indefinite extension of this hegemon. There is recurring concern about power balances in many governments. Both Koreas often see their security as requiring a balance among the four great powers. 24 China keeps stressing (wishfully) the coming of a multipolar world, and SinoRussian cooperation is pursued with balancing in mind. A standard view in ASEAN is that security rests on a continued US presence in East Asia to balance China. Finally, fear of war is apparent in the two Koreas, and in China and Taiwan; there is a lesser concern about provocations that could set off a war (mainly by North Korea but possibly Taiwan) in the US and Japan. There are deeply rooted suspicions: of Japan in China, Korea, and ASEAN; of China and Russia in Japan; of the US in China; of China in Vietnam and ASEAN.
But at the same time, this is no purely realpolitik system. Many conflicts have been resolved and the possibility of war is now much lower no one really expects a war and there are many pledges to avoid the use of force. Nearly all countries in the system are now rather open economically; in China trade is roughly 20% of the GDP. 25 There are huge economic and other interactions and now they are far more intraregional, far less twoway between individual countries and the US. For instance, overseas Chinese supply 7080% of direct foreign investment in China and 30% of foreign investment in ASEAN countries, 26 while the US supplies 10% or less. 27 ROK exports have been greatly diversified with the enormous growth in its trade with China; 28 and its exports to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia now (collectively) exceed its exports to Japan. 29 Over 40% of Asian exports go to other Asian countries, much more than flow to the US. There are more open political systems too, making for more transparency and more penetration from outside; even North Korea has been unable to avoid this completely. The interest in multilateral endeavors has risen steadily. On some issues, like North Korea, there has been something akin to a great power concert and now there are numerous proposals to go to sixparty talks about the future of the peninsula. There was the multilateral effort to resolve the conflict in Cambodia. There is steady progress with APEC, and continued development of the ASEAN ARF, and the ASEAN members keep pressing for multilateral negotiations to deal with the conflict over the South China Sea. Japan has become a champion of increased multilateralism, as has the ROK, joining the Russians and Australians. 30
There are also difficulties with the notion of the US as security manager because it is a hegemon, which we will take up later. The most important is that the US had a hegemonic position during 19451970 when the system was violent and chaotic, and also during the years since when it has become much less violent, so not much seems explained. But the system lacks the persistent greatpower cooperation we associate with a concert, there is nothing like a collective security arrangement, there is no pluralistic security community present or plausible, and nothing in the nature of initial steps toward integration. What we have then is a system that has important realist characteristics but with a good many behavior patterns typical of a more liberalist system. Therein lies the puzzle.
For some time there have been suspicions that the basic theoretical notions derived from the Wests experience might not fit the East Asian system. This goes back to rather low caliber discussions of the AAsian Way but has taken the form more recently of explicit attempts to critique Western theories in light of recent East Asian system experience, and to try to offer new conceptions of the paths along which systems can develop. 31 Some of this has been stimulated by the benign security situation that has existed for some time now in the system.
Political realism and structural realism can explain why insecurity in international politics is rampant, cooperation is uncertain and fleeting. They can handle temporary instances of cooperation by citing favorable configurations of national interests. But extended peace and security is explainable within the realist tradition only through some variant of hegemonic stability theory. 32 Liberalist and neoliberalist approaches, 33 on the other hand, which are equally classical in origins and are now resurgent, can far more readily explain cooperation, including cooperative security management. They cite processes that drive the emergence of law and norms, regimes, and institutions, and emphasize the domestic nature of states and societies, particularly democratization, as crucial. They also resort to conceptions of the evolution of international systems over time. However, this is not treated as the basis for a division of labor in the field. Instead, the tendency is to suggest that only one of these two conceptions of international politics applies to a system at a time it is basically realist or liberalist in character. Realists are constantly objecting to liberalist analyses on grounds that they highlight surface features in place of dominant tendencies and characteristics; liberalists reply in kind. Each sees the kind of system that it champions as selfsustaining and selfreinforcing.
This means it takes a considerable effort to explain how the one system can turn into the other. After all, the transformation is made to look steplevel in dimension. Theoretically, the shift, which can be called a Aliberalist transition when it goes as it has in the Transatlantic system, is normally discussed as proceeding only from realist to liberalist, while movement in the opposite direction has been neglected. Available explanations of the liberalist transition can be grouped roughly in the following broad categories:
As for how we know that the liberalist transition is under way, the hallmarks regularly cited are familiar. The system experiences the emergence of important international institutions formal and informal which embody actor coalescence around important norms. Also emerging are relatively homogenous domestic systems. There is, as well, a gradual commitment to some common values by most members, particularly values that limit conflicts and the use of force. Finally, a sense of common identity/solidarity arises, a sense of distinctiveness as a regional or subregional system.
The best example is currently the West, centered on Europe and North America (though embracing certain other states), with its huge institutionalization, relatively homogenous systems, official agreements and informal understandings on common values and rules of behavior, and its sense of itself as distinctive. Russia doesnt fit, for example, not just because of its location and past behavior but because it does not comport with these criteria.
This way of thinking tends to confuse indicators of a liberalist transition with the major steps believed necessary to bring it about; most of the above are steps, not indicators. As a result, the absence of the steps is frequently taken to mean that a transition cannot be occurring. The policies and arrangements among actors that move a system into and through the transition are ones that promote democratization, marketization, globalization, and Astrong multilateralism. But it is possible that the indicators would include:
With this in mind it is possible that a liberalist transition can get under way somewhat in advance of liberalizing steps. After all, such steps are not always adopted systemwide. Economic liberalization can (as it did prior to World War I) develop with little or no easing of security problems or domestic political liberalization. Perhaps it is possible to significantly relax the systemic security situation before policies that supposedly make this possible are fully in place.
What shall we say, then, about the East Asian system? As noted above, it is almost never considered Aliberalist, but available theoretical explanations do not effectively explain why. For instance, in the hegemonic stability approach the US was completing several decades of military and economic hegemony in the system by the late 1960s, and during that time there had been two large interstate wars, the Taiwan Straits crises, grave conflicts among Southeast Asian states, an outright military clash on the SinoSoviet border, and numerous nasty internal conflicts. The USChina rapprochement in 1971 seemed to renew this hegemony with far fewer burdens, but that is not how things worked out. The Soviet Union promptly mounted a huge effort to attain parity in the area: seeking allies to surround China, building huge military forces in the Far East, undertaking increased naval deployments throughout the system. Thus the US confronted a far more serious military challenger in that area than before, and at a time when the Vietnam syndrome sapped its resources, confidence, and credibility. By the late 1970s this produced the Nixon Doctrine, cuts in US military spending, rising concern among allies that they were on their own (which led the ROK and Taiwan to pursue nuclear weapons programs). Yet this was precisely when the shift to a far less dangerous system began. Unless we think of the hegemon as having been a major troublemaker from 19451975, with increased security possible only when it mended its ways, the hegemonic stability thesis doesnt fit. When the US was clearly hegemonic, the system was very dangerous and insecurity flourished when its leverage was slipping the system was moving away from its dangerous and violent past.
As for rising interactions being the key, a considerably improved security situation arrived for most actors in the system in advance of big shifts toward heavy interactions. Even then, the interactions that begin to surge were initially quite skewed, as many analysts have noted. One state after another began to build an extensive economic relationship with the US, but general regional trade and development was slow to develop. When Japan finally expanded its (mainly economic) links to the region much of this was in aid closely tied to Japanese business concerns, foreign investment mainly to produce more cheaply goods traditionally sold in the US, significant Japanese exports, and Japanese restrictions on imports from the region. Japan developed large trade and payments surpluses with its neighbors, who came to see this as a form of exploitation and not associated with a more open regional economic system. Analysts also noted that other kinds of interactions around the regional system were slow to develop. There were limited cultural/intellectual exchanges among East Asians, particularly in comparison with the impact of American culture there. Few multilateral institutions emerged, and they were of the talkshop variety. 37 (See Henderson; Ellings and Simon) In short, the interactions and increased interdependence still resembled the old Ahub and spokes pattern associated with the US alliances long after major improvements in security began to emerge.
What seems to have occurred is that conscious decisions were made by states to pursue more internationally oriented foreign policies and economic relationships, decisions that generated most of the associated interactions and rising interdependence, and the starting point was a desire to resolve or ease conflicts. States took steps to diminish the level of insecurity and shift the dominant political climate of the system and this is what initiated the liberalist transition.
And this cannot be traced to the effects of a proliferation of more open political, economic, and social systems either. There was no consistent pattern of this as of 1969, or even twenty years later. In recent years theorists have come to place increased emphasis on domestic liberalization as crucial for altering the nature of international politics. The implication is that international politics really (probably only) changes character when the domestic nature of the actors changes as in the democratic peace argument. Yet the modern history of the East Asian regional system demonstrates that a departure from standard international politics can begin to occur without any transformation of domestic political and economic systems in advance. Initial improvements in security took place while East Asian systems continued to cherish, and were cited for cherishing, authoritarian practices in economic and political matters. There were admirably open societies in the system Japan and Australia and the US. Then there were systems with an authoritarian cast plus a neomercantilist economic approach the ROK, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia. And there were highly authoritarian systems only gradually beginning to open up (at best) China, Vietnam, North Korea. To this day the actors vary widely on these dimensions.
Since none of these theories apply it would be hard to depict the system as liberalist by reference to the available literature. This viewpoint was reinforced by other elements: the dearth of international organizations of stature and effectiveness, the lack of homogeneity among the actors in culture, development, democratization, marketization, openness. Also missing were commitments to extensive common values across the system, like those in the OSCE in the European system. Finally, there was no clear sense of regional identity, no profound feeling among the actors that they constituted a distinctive community.
The resulting puzzle is straightforward. East Asian regional international politics now has a level of security, based on cooperation along various lines, normally believed to require a liberalist transition but the theories on how the transition can come about do not seem to apply. This suggests either that there has been no transition or that it has been developing in some other fashion than expected. Thus the participants are often depicted, and often see themselves, as practicing international politics in a very traditional way, but the evidence suggests otherwise it indicates they started moving away from that, gradually, as early as the 1970s or, with ASEAN members, even earlier. It is after a good deal of progress in improving security that we see the Japanese economic miracle begin to spread to other states, and then to see internal political stability and legitimacy do the same, along with democracy. Then comes the opening up of these societies and, eventually, rising interest in weak multilateralism too.
How shall we explain this? We have considerable Aliberalist behavior in a system seemingly unsuitable for it. How did so much conflict resolution or amelioration take place dyadically, for example, with no overall collective coordination, structure, institutions, or enforcement? How did this get so far out in front of the developments traditionally depicted as leading to conflict amelioration for a system? How did so many parallel foreign policies arise from such disparate domestic systems?
One possibility, of course, is that we dont need to explain it because it is a fluke, an anomaly; relation among the actors will soon return to traditional patterns (the Mearsheimer thesis in Asian dress). 38 For instance, it could be that the system is really very realist in character and is just suffocated today by an American hegemony dressed up in liberalist raiment. As the US position declines, as many regularly predict, the old conflicts and rivalries will return as will the usual ways of conducting them.
I think this is not the case, that important adjustments in international politics in that system have already taken place. If so, we need a new approach to explaining the onset of the liberalist transition. At a minimum we need one for explaining it in the East Asian system; if a workable explanation can be found, its relevance for other international systems can be taken up later. What is needed now is a way of coping with those anomalies outlined above. What might such an explanation look like?
A Preliminary Explanation
It seems necessary to start by distinguishing domestic from international factors, assume that both are involved, and anticipate that explaining their impact requires considering how each worked in tandem with the others. It is not a matter of adding the effects of domestic and external factors but of the interplay between them having shaped the impact of each. This means trying to indicate which domestic or external factors have operated separately and which have been bundled together. Then we have to distinguish factors which the actors could deliberately and consciously shape or adjust so as to produce a more accommodating systemic environment (i.e., taking steps to ease conflicts or join cooperative endeavors), from developments beyond the reach of the actors that had the same effect (the emergence of an open global economy, technological change). As for the overall pattern it is likely a matter of a favorable confluence of these factors initially creating good starting conditions that ease security, then having developments after that set off a beneficent spiral of rewarding steps to take this further, so that change comes slowly but is actually selfreinforcing once under way.
I suggest that the following elements were important. First, we can cluster a number of the external factors in the regional and globallevel international systems as providing a strong Apush, inviting efforts to try to escape from normal international politics. Each system produced glaring evidence, which actors in the East Asian system directly experienced or closely observed, that very heavy political conflicts would pose immense burdens and that if modern warfare resulted it would be enormously costly, and that neither the burdens nor the warfare could be readily avoided under international politics as usual. Governments in Southeast Asia knew first hand the burdens and costs of confrontations and warfare; so did the Koreans and Vietnamese, while the Chinese and Japanese also knew what a true greatpower war could now be like. Next, evidence gradually became available indicating that states could find it highly profitable to depart from strictly realpolitik behavior, and that even a set of states could do this. Early on Japan began to point the way, and eventually so did the Western states in their relations with each other.
Then there was a parallel push from inside, a coalescence of various factors behind a shift in direction. In one society after another, liberalizing elites began building coalitions seeking the power to pursue an alternative route to national development, with the impetus coming from various places ranging from national leaders to government experts to major domestic interests. They sought to alter the previously dominant strategy for national development that stressed neomercantilist or autarkic strategies (traditional politices that were rationalized as antiimperialist), corresponding preoccupations with national expansion territorially and/or politically, and efforts to maintain legitimacy for shaky political systems partly through conflicts and confrontations. They wished to set these aside in favor of active participation in, and penetration by, global and regional markets, meaning greater interdependence and use of nonexpansionist routes to raw materials, capital, and markets. This meant creating conditions at home and abroad to facilitate development along these lines. A central element was focusing on development as critical to national health and strength (as opposed to pursuing power and rapacity a la Mobutu or contemporary Russians), while accepting that development was coming to be increasingly interdependencedominated. For communist states this was the difference between the Russian approach laid down by Stalin, and the route selected by Deng in China who operated as if even ambitious well endowed states could no longer be successful using rigidly realist behavior and policies. It is the difference between the semiautarkic development sought by many LDCs and exportled growth in a liberal international system.
Such a major shift in policy, in national strategy, must have been very difficult, so something else was needed to pull it off, to build the necessary consensus. A necessary adjunct was a major pull from outside, not a push so much as a lure. I think the pull was evidence of a successful development strategy being available if the change was made, and signs that some of the neighbors were already benefitting from it. That strategy involved imitating Japan, more or less, in such things as making national development the greatest priority, putting other national goals (especially in foreign policy) aside temporarily or permanently. This included downplaying, resolving or shelving conflicts; it also meant moving to exploit the relatively open global market by opening up to foreign investment (something Japan did not do) and promoting exports (while restricting imports.) In particular, it meant utilizing the US market the relevant Aopenness of the global market was primarily in the US, and in many cases the relevant foreign investor was looking to produce something to be sold in the US.
Of course, what was also required was an appreciation of the strategy by the US, plus its continued willingness to help sustain its availability. As we know this involved a combination of motives such as the desire to promote a liberal international economic order, and the objective of solidifying the appeals of the West in the Cold War competition in the Far East. Still, such a strategy did not take hold in other parts of the developing world so much more than this American involvement was needed.
To have overriding appeal the strategy needed a great deal of evidence that it was realistic, that it was within reach, because considerable gambles were involved. There was the risk that it would not work. There was the risk that it would distort development, as has happened with oil exporting societies. There was the risk that it would produce excessive vulnerability, including the possibility of control by powerful outsiders. The gamble was taken because the evidence became plentiful. It was initially provided by the example of Japan, then reinforced by the successive achievements of the Asian tigers. It was provided by the sustained leadership of Washington in maintaining a liberal international system states could worry less about having the open market roll up in their faces and by the sustained openness of the US market.
Thus it was not enough to have leaders or elites inclined to ease conflicts and avoid confrontations. What was required was the combination of evidence of a highly promising route to development, rising influence for people who wanted to take that route, powerful incentives to do so because of the appeals of rapid development, and the existence of a specific strategy a map on how to proceed. Probably also important was that success would produce achievements that could be put to a wide variety of uses: to outpace rivals abroad or at home, to get development started and reap some political legitimacy from this, to lay a better basis for fulfilling other national ambitions, to gain resources for securing domestic stability, etc. This helped make it possible to build a consensus behind the gamble.
As a result a set of states began moving away from international politics as usual with respect to security. They did this consciously, on the basis of learning what would work, and in response to serious needs and strong incentives. 39 Thus it was not automatic or inevitable. Deliberate, conscious efforts were needed to bring it about. On the other hand, it was not strictly or straightforwardly rational. The necessary steps had to become politically palatable, and important shifts were required in the relative priority attached to various values. Then the resulting changes had to remain politically, economically, and socially sustainable thus much of the concern about the recent economic crisis in the system has been about whether the changes will remain sustainable in the future. On the international level the changes required the gradual emergence of a web of new practices, understandings, and preliminary normative structures.
This broad pattern of behavior in a major regional system deserves much more attention. East Asian economic achievements have received plenty of study but the equally remarkable adjustments in the regional political system have not. In considering the larger implications we can start with the encouraging fact that, broadly speaking, the pattern is not entirely new. Something similar occurred in Europe after 1945, though it is infrequently described in this way. A consensus gradually emerged on the elements of a strategy for recovery and development and on building intraWestern security: association with the US, significant steps toward integration, a steadily more liberal Western international economic system and domestic economies, the suspension or resolution of traditional conflicts and grievances, and the setting aside of some traditional security practices among the members. The same recipe is now being followed (with struggle over its application in the Balkans) in ingesting Eastern Europe in the West. The big contrast with the East Asian regional arrangement is that the changes were often partly embedded in movement toward integration and the extraordinary collective security association with the United States NATO provided. But there was the same reliance on access to the American market, the same spur from US investment. And while there was no widespread alliance, several East Asian states had a very close association with the US on security. Thus elements of a common pattern can be detected, which suggests the East Asian case is not an anomoly.
In postwar thinking about how to set traditional politics aside (in Europe) the initial focus was on integration, via the Deutschian emphasis on the cognitive effects of increasing interdependence and interaction and the Haas stress on the specific political calculations needed on the prospective payoffs. The prominence given to calculations remained crucial in the development of neoliberalist thinking, while the importance of interactions is still highlighted by those who emphasize dynamic density, the information revolution, and globalization. What seems borne out by the East Asian experience is that systems can be moved toward a transformation if actor preoccupation with development can be closely linked to conflict amelioration, allowing the processes associated with the Haas approach to operate. However, this is not the case when actors put other objectives first (was has been the case in the Middle East).
The East Asian system experience also strongly suggests that a high level of cooperation to ease security problems, work around or dampen security dilemmas, and greatly improve national and regional security can be achieved among actors that still display many realist behaviors and inclinations. The liberalist transition can get under way earlier that has appeared possible to many analysts, earlier in the evolution of a system and in the level of development of the actors.
Striking in the East Asian case is the fact that this cooperation on conflict control has been attained without some compelling external threat and the togetherness of a broad alliance generated to cope with it, conditions often cited to explain the liberalist transition in Western Europe. What can sustain cooperation is the lure of a very high payoff from what seems to be a clearly feasible and successful development strategy behind which influential domestic elites can coalesce politically. The relevant threat then becomes that your state and society might miss the boat, fail to seize the possibility of successful national development, and fall behind the neighbors. What emerges is a Abenign spiral. It becomes necessary to keep up in the neighborhood in applying everybodys operating strategy for achievement. In this fashion political and psychological imperatives come to promote cooperative interaction.
Another implication is that much cooperation can emerge when not all the actors are established democracies. While democracy may well be a thoroughly sufficient condition for a group of states to be reliably at peace indefinitely, as the democratic peace argument suggests, it is not a necessary condition for this to emerge initially. This is encouraging since some regional systems are short on well established democracies, and are likely to be so for years to come.
It also appears that having a hegemon around, of the right sort, is useful but probably not crucial. In the East Asian system the military power, and related influence, of the US has done much to sustain Japans quiescence while allowing the US to quash nascent nuclear weapons programs in South Korea, Taiwan, and now North Korea. But those capabilities were often of little relevance for the patient, dyadic conflict amelioration that has been so prominent in the system. Much more important, it appears, was the US contribution to making the overall development strategy available, feasible, and reliable by its leadership in global economic liberalization, its tolerance of substantial trade deficits with East Asia, and its availability as a source of capital. (We might also include its later availability as a place for investment, particularly in hard times.)
Finally, the systems success suggests that much depends on the perceptions of officials and analysts of the system and its possibilities, and the impact of their perceptions on state preferences. Under the right conditions these views can coalesce into a beneficent spiral of expectations. Drawing on accumulating evidence, officials and elites can tentatively enlarge cooperative endeavors, and rising payoffs can then promote further steps in that direction. Difficulties and setbacks are thus overcome, with cooperation proceeding despite continuing skepticism about how deeply it can go or how long it can last.
The skepticism is a burden of the past. The actors necessarily live amid a Arealismplus perspective, because we have lacked a compelling theoretical analysis of what is taking place and why. Todays liberalist approach rests heavily on the experiences of Europe and North America and has relatively little to say about a less hegemondriven, not highly institutionalized, not democracysuffused process. And realist thinking allows for temporary cooperation based on intersecting interests but never for retreating from realism itself.
We need a good theoretical grip on all this to help avoid an East Asian system rerun of the European experience prior to 1914, when splendid development was accompanied by a surge in expansionism, plus expectations that conflicting ambitions would eventually be settled by war, leading to political rivalry and arms racing which undermined peace and security even as the actors more open economic systems and the international economy were generating the interdependence on which a peaceful international order could have rested. The key is to be able to demonstrate that the cooperation that facilitates development is not necessarily a fluke, or historically transient, and that what actors think matters a good deal in shaping the outcome.
This means that in the conditions under which the East Asian system is now operating, a realist perspective is best kept in reserve by governments and officials, as a fallback position if developments make its revival necessary, and not as the perspective of choice. North Korea is the ultimate in realpolitik behavior. China is too deeply imbued with realist perspectives. South Koreans often slip into this sort of analysis on the future of their region. And so on.
Offsetting this is a fairly widespread interest in some sort of multilateral approach to security, plus confidence in many quarters that the benign security situation of today can somehow be sustained, plus a belief that common interests in development will continue to mute conflicts. This needs reinforcement. Officials and analysts must be assisted in seeing the further possibilities of cooperation and in departing from classic notions about how anarchy or system structure dictate an inevitable struggle. They need to know that when the neighbors take up a broadly cooperative strategy for development and prosperity they are not necessarily, and are rather unlikely, to be just piling up resources toward a later defection from cooperation for imperial or revanchist purposes. The Areal Japan (imperialist and militarist) is not lurking in Tokyo, the Amiddle kingdom mentality is not behind Chinas opening up, etc.
A Final Thought
Other systems now resemble, or will likely soon resemble, the East Asian system of old. The best, and often most dangerous, example has been the Middle East; possibly the most dangerous now is South Asia. The relations among central and east African states have displayed these characteristics in recent years, and the emerging system of states centered on the oilrich Caucasus and Central Asia may do so as well. In thinking about the future of such systems, including the possibility for less vicious patterns of development, the East Asian system is likely to be far more relevant than the West. It is apt to have more to say about when and how a system can begin to set aside the worst in international politics and do so in a selfsustaining fashion.
Note 4: See Philippe C. Schmitter, AChange in Regime Type and Progress in International Relations, in Emmanuel Adler and Beverly Crawford, eds., Progress in Postwar International Relations, (N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1991), pp. 89-127, especially p. 119. Back.
Note 5: On such systems see Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Steven E. Miller, eds., The Perils of Anarchy: Contemporary Realism and International Security (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995) Back.
Note 6: For examples of alternative continua see Emanuel Adler, ASeasons of Peace: Progress in Postwar International Security, in Adler and Beverly Crawford, eds., Progress in Postwar International Relations (N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1991) pp. 128-173; Muthiah Alagappa, ARethinking Security: A Critical Review and Appraisal of the Debate, in Alagappa, ed., Asian Security Practice: Material and Ideational Influences (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998) pp. 27-64; and Benjamin Miller, AExplaining Variations in Regional Peace: Three Strategies for Peacemaking unpublished paper, 1998. Mine originally appeared in Patrick M. Morgan, ARegional Security Complexes and Regional Orders, in David A. Lake and Morgan, eds., Regional Orders: Building Security in a New World, (University Park, Penn.: Penn State University Press, 1997) pp. 20-42. Back.
Note 7: The emphasis on a hegemon can be found in George Modelski, Long Cycles in World Politics, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1987); and Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1981). Increased cooperation among the victors is used by Robert Jervis to explain the emergence of a great-power concert in From Balance to Concert: A Study of Security Cooperation, in Kenneth Oye, ed., Cooperation Under Anarchy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 58-79 to explain the emergence of a great power concert. Back.
Note 8: On learning during the Cold War or learning that leads to progress in international politics see Joseph Nye, ANuclear Learning and U.S.-Soviet Security Regimes, International Organization Vol. 41 No. 3 (Summer) 1987, pp. 371-402; and Adler and Crawford. Back.
Note 9: This was used by Deutsch to explain a pluralistic security community. Renamed Adynamic density, or Ainteraction capacity it results in a more Aadvanced international system in Barry Buzan, Charles Jones, and Richard Little, The Logic of Anarchy: Neorealism to Structural Realism (N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1993) Back.
Note 13: For instance, on US policy toward North Korea no one urges engagement without insisting it take place within the context of continued deterrence. As in AManaging Change on the Korean Peninsula, Report of an Independent Task Force of the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, Council on Foreign Relations, 1998. Back.
Note 16: Examples include Aaron Friedberg, ARipe for Rivalry: Prospects for Peace in a Multipolar Asia, International Security Vol. 18 No. 3 (Winter 1993/94) pp. 5-23; Barry Buzan and Gerald Segal, ARethinking East Asian Security, Survival Vol. 36 No. 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 3-21; Carpenter, Ted Galen, ARoiling Asia: U. S. Cosiness with China Upsets the Neighbors, Foreign Affairs (Vol. 77 No. 6 (Nov/Dec 1998) pp. 2-6; Kristof, Nicholas D. The Problem of Memory, Foreign Affairs Vol. 77 No. 6 (Nov/Dec 1998), pp. 37-49; Denny Roy, AHegemon on the Horizon? Chinas Threat to East Asian Security, International Security Vol. 19 No. 1 (Summer 1994) pp. 149-168; Richard Betts, AWealth, Power, and Instability: East Asia and the United States After the Cold War, International Security Vol. 18 No. 3 (Winter 1993/94) pp. 34-77; Paul Dibb, David D. Hale, and Peter Prince, Asias Insecurity, Survival Vol. 41 No. 3 (Autumn 1999), pp. 5-20; Robert A. Manning and James J. Przystup, AAsias Transition Diplomacy: Hedging Against Futureshock, Survival Vol. 41 No. 3 (Autumn 1999), pp. 43-4. This is the view of China in the Cox Commission Report, U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With the Peoples Republic of China 3 Vols. Select Committee, United States House of Representatives (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1999) Back.
Note 17: Valencia, Mark, AEnergy and Insecurity in Asia, CAPS Papers No. 18 (Taipei: Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, September 1997); Alan Dupont, AThe Environment and Security in Pacific Asia, Adelphi Paper 319 (London: IISS, 1998) Back.
Note 18: On realpolitik in East Asian thinking see, for example, Thomas Christensen, AChinese Realpolitik, Foreign Affairs Vol. 75 No. 5 ((Sept./Oct. 1996), pp. 37-52; and many of the chapters in Alagappa, Asian Security Practice. For its influence on the US see Sheldon W. Simon, AThe Northeast Asian Security Setting, International Journal of Korean Studies Vol. 1 No. 1 (Spring 1997) pp. 1-26. For an alternative view, that Asian officials and analysts are relatively optimistic, compared to Western analysts on East Asia, see Alagappa AIntroduction. Back.
Note 21: As when General Shalikashvili, Chairman of the JCS, said in Beijing, Athe US supports the development of the PRC and is not seeking to contain it from becoming a great power. AShalikashvili 5/14 Speech at China Defense University, NAPSNet Daily Report May 15, 1997, accessible at ftp://ftp.nautilus.org/napsnet/daily reports Back.
Note 25: George D. Holliday, AChina and the World Trade Organization in Joint Economic Committee, Congress, ed. Chinas Economic Future: Challenges to U.S. Policy (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1997), pp. 451-469 Back.
Note 26: James R.Lilley and Sophia C. Hart, AGreater China: Economic Dynamism of the Overseas Chinese, in Joint Economic Committee, Congress, ed., Chinas Economic Future: Challenges to U.S. Policy (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1997), pp. 423-450. Back.
Note 28: Lee, Byung-Sun and Park, Hyun-Joo, AKoreas Economic Relations With China, in Korea Economic Institute of America and Korea Institute of International Economic Policy, eds., Koreas Economy 1998 Vol. 14 (Washington, D.C.: Korea Economic Institute, 1998) pp. 106-110. Back.
Note 29: Douglas Ostrom, AComplementarity and Competition: Korean-Japanese Trade Relations, in Korea Economic Institute of America and Korea Institute of International Economic Policy, eds., Koreas Economy 1998 Vol. 14 (Washington, D.C.: Korea Economic Institute, 1998) pp. 100-105; Lee, Sang-Jik, Koreas International Trade: 1997 Trends and Prospects, in Korea Economic Institute of America and Korea Institute of International Economic Policy, eds., Koreas Economy 1998 Vol. 14 (Washington, D.C.: Korea Economic Institute 1998) pp. 86-91 Back.
Note 30: See the emphasis on rising interest in multilateralism in Sheldon W. Simon, AThe Parallel Tracks of AsianMultilateralism, in Richard J. Ellings and Simon, eds., Southeast Asian Security in the New Millenium (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharp, 1996), pp. 13-33. On ROK interest see for example as Kim, Kyung-Won, AMaintaining Asias Current Peace, Survival Vol. 39 No. 4 (Winter 1997-98), pp. 52-64; ACreation of Regional Security Forum to top President Kim, Dai-Jungs Agenda on PRC Visit, NAPSNet Daily Report October 22, 1998, accessible in ftp://ftp.nautilus.org/napsnet/daily reports. On Japan see Son, Key-Young, Seoul, Tokyo to Hold Security Talks, The Korea Times July 7,1999 in NAPSNet DailyReport July 8, 1999, available at ftp://ftp.nautilus.org/napsnet/daily reports; or Mormoto, Satoshi, AA Security Framework for the Asia/Pacific Region, in Desmond Ball, ed., The Transformation of Security in the Asia/Pacific Region, (London: Frank Cass, 1996), pp. 218-231; on Russias interest see Yuriy Dubov and Yuriy Morozov, ARussia Between the Centers of Power as outlined in NAPSNet Daily Report October 9, 1998, accessible in ftp://ftp.nautilus.org/napsnet/daily reports. Finally on the limits of East Asian multilateralism see Paul M. Evans, AThe Prospects for Multilateral Security Co-operation in the Asia/Pacific Region, in Desmond ball, ed., The Transformation of Security in the Asia/Pacific Region (London: Frank Cass, 1996) pp. 201-217. Back.
Note 33: Andrew Moravcsik ATaking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory of International Politics, International Organization Vol. 51 No. 4 (Autumn 1997) pp. 513-553; Mark W. Zacher and Richard A. Mathew, Liberal International Theory; Common Threads, Divergent Strands, in Charles W. Kegley, Jr., ed., Controversies in International Relations Theory: Realism and the Neoliberal Challenge, (N.Y.: St. Mrtin=s Press, 1995) pp. 107-150. Back.
Note 34: For example, on the importance of US hegemony, however Aincompetent, for the East Asian system see Edward A.Olsen, AChanging U.S.-Korean Security Relations, International Journal of Korean Studies Vol. 1 No. 1 (Spring 1997), pp. 27-48. Back.
Note 36: See Etel Solingen, ADemocracy, Economic Reform and Regional Cooperation, Journal of Theoretical Politics Vol. 8 No. 1 (January 1996) pp. 79-114 for this analysis applied to the East Asian system. Back.
Note 37: See Jeanne Henderson, Reassessing ASEAN, Adelphi Paper No. 328 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1999; Richard J. Ellings and Sheldon W. Simon, eds., Southeast Asian Security in the New Millenium (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1996) Back.
Note 38: John Mearsheimer predicted that the end of the Cold War would soon bring a return of standard international politics to Western Europe, in John Mearsheimer, ABack to the Future: Instability In Europe After the Cold War, International Security Vol 15 No 1 (Summer 1990) pp. 5-56. Back.