Hugo Meijer | International Politics
The US-led system of alliances and defence partnerships in East Asia has undergone profound change since the end of the Cold War. The so-called “hub-and-spokes” system of bilateral alliances has been gradually supplemented by a “networked security architecture”—a network of interwoven bilateral, minilateral and multilateral defence arrangements between the US and its regional allies and partners, in which China is also included through a variety of cooperation channels. This paper shows that, from Washington’s perspective, the networked security architecture is not merely a means to externally balance a revisionist China, as Structural Realist analyses contend. Rather, the US has sought to broaden the composition of the US-led hegemonic order in East Asia by diversifying the range of defence ties with and amongst its allies and partners, but also by seeking to include the PRC in it. Thereby, Washington aims to channel and shape the trajectory of China’s rise within the US-led hegemonic order, from a position of pre-eminence, through a mixture of negative and positive incentives (resistance and accommodation) with the ultimate goal of upholding the existing hegemonic order. To empirically substantiate this argument, the paper relies on a large body of elite interviews with senior US policymakers.