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Three Faces of the Indo-Pacific: Understanding the “Indo-Pacific” from an IR Theory Perspective

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Abstract

This paper examines the three faces of the Indo-Pacific from an IR theory perspective. It suggests that the realist face of the Indo-Pacific is a “balancing strategy” against China. The liberal face of the Indo-Pacific aims to form a new “institutional setting” that facilitates cooperation among states across the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. According to constructivism, the Indo-Pacific offers an “ideational construct” for promoting value-oriented and norm-based diplomacy in the region. This paper argues that these three faces of the Indo-Pacific concept are theoretically problematic and practically flawed. There are two ways of institutionalizing the Indo-Pacific, though. One is exclusive institutionalization with China as an outside target, which follows the realist logic of making China a common threat in the region. The success of this approach mainly depends on how China behaves in the future. The other is the inclusive approach of institutionalizing the Indo-Pacific by embracing China and other states into a new Indo-Pacific institution. It will not be easy, but the endeavor of the inclusive institutionalization of the Indo-Pacific will produce positive externalities of peace and stability to the region.
Three Faces of the Indo-Pacific: Understanding
the BIndo-Pacific^from an IR Theory Perspective
Kai He
1
Received: 26 January 2018 /Accepted: 2 April 2018 /Published online: 11 April 2018
#Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract This paper examines the three faces of the Indo-Pacific from an IR theory
perspective. It suggests that the realist face of the Indo-Pacific is a Bbalancing strategy^
against China. The liberal face of the Indo-Pacific aims to form a new Binstitutional
setting^that facilitates cooperation among states across the Pacific and the Indian
Oceans. According to constructivism, the Indo-Pacific offers an Bideational construct^
for promoting value-oriented and norm-based diplomacy in the region. This paper
argues that these three faces of the Indo-Pacific concept are theoretically problematic
and practically flawed. There are two ways of institutionalizing the Indo-Pacific,
though. One is exclusive institutionalization with China as an outside target, which
follows the realist logic of making China a common threat in the region. The success of
this approach mainly depends on how China behaves in the future. The other is the
inclusive approach of institutionalizing the Indo-Pacific by embracing China and other
states into a new Indo-Pacific institution. It will not be easy, but the endeavor of the
inclusive institutionalization of the Indo-Pacific will produce positive externalities of
peace and stability to the region.
Keywords Indo-Pacific .Realism .Liberalism .Constructivism .Institutionalization .
Institutional balancing .US-China relations
The BIndo-Pacific^has become a popular discourse in some statesforeign policy
lexicon since 2010. In her article entitled, BAmericasPacificCentury^,inForeign
Policy, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned that the US intended to
expand its Balliance with Australia from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one,
and indeed a global partnership^[11]. In its 2013 Defence White Paper, Australia
defined the BIndo-Pacific strategic arc^as its zone of strategic interest [14]. Indias
East Asia (2018) 35:149161
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12140-018-9286-5
*Kai He
hekai@yahoo.com
1
The Griffith Asia Institute & Center for Governance and Public Policy, Griffith University, 170
Kessels Road, Nathan, QLD 4111, Australia
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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