Introduction

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Abstract

    Bilateralism and multilateralism have long been regarded as dichotomous modes of security cooperation, with scholars and practitioners of Asian security politics traditionally conceiving of them in starkly zero-sum terms. Throughout the Cold War, for instance, bilateralism was regarded as the dominant mode of Asia-Pacific security cooperation, as epitomized by the US-led “San Francisco System” of alliances and the so-called “spiderweb bilateralism” that was especially prevalent in Southeast Asia during this period. With the passing of the Cold War, multilateral frameworks such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) began to emerge, and with them much speculation that bilateralism was fast becoming an outdated mode of security cooperation. Contrary to those predictions, however, bilateralism and multilateralism are now flourishing simultaneously in Asia. America’s alliances with Australia, Japan, and South Korea are arguably as strong as they have ever been. Speculation is also growing that America’s longstanding alliance with the Philippines will take on renewed significance in an era defined largely by an intensification of strategic competition between the US and China. Against that backdrop, the US is deepening bilateral security ties with other emerging regional players, such as India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, and Vietnam. Concurrently, Asian multilateralism is burgeoning with the emergence of a raft of new and potentially influential regional bodies including the recently expanded East Asia Summit (EAS) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) process. As Asian multilateralism continues to blossom, many scholars continue to predict the eventual demise of exclusive bilateral structures such as the US-led bilateral alliance system (Menon 2007). A handful of analysts have forecast the eventual convergence of the two modes of security cooperation as their proximity intensifies (for example, see Tow 2001). A third line of thinking points toward a “peaceful coexistence” between bilateralism and multilateralism, suggesting that existing structures can effectively be knitted together to form a “patchwork-like” regional architecture that contains elements of each (see Cha 2011). Yet the relationship between Asia’s persistent bilateral structures and its newly emergent multilateral processes remains underexplored. This volume redresses that shortcoming in the literature by offering the first empirically comprehensive and conceptually systematic treatment of the emerging “nexus” between bilateralism and multilateralism in Asian security politics. The book is divided into four parts. The first locates the study and conceptualizes the nexus – an important task not least because bilateralism and multilateralism are each highly contested concepts in political science and international relations scholarship. In the chapter immediately following this introduction, Brendan Taylor outlines four possible conceptual approaches to the so-called “nexus” between bilateral and multilateral modes of security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. The first approach – which Taylor terms bilateral or multilateral – assumes that bilateralism and multilateralism are mutually exclusive modes of cooperation. The second approach – bilateral-multilateral – suggests that synergies between the two modes can and do exist, but that multilateralism is ultimately a smokescreen for enhanced bilateral interaction. The third – the multilateral-bilateral – reverses this causal arrow and views bilateralism as largely a “stepping stone” or “building block” to multilateralism. The fourth conceptual approach to the nexus – bilateral and multilateral – suggests that greater complimentarity and perhaps even convergence can ultimately be realized between bilateral and multilateral structures and processes. Part two takes as its central focus the US-led alliance network, analyzing how emergent multilateral processes are impacting upon this set of strategic relationships and with what ramifications. Ajin Choi and William Tow “set the scene,” pointing to the apparent inability of America’s Asian alliances to meet many of the region’s emergent security challenges. At the same time, Choi and Tow contend that burgeoning multilateral structures and processes seem destined to be found equally wanting due to their large size, coupled with the tendency of their members to often work at odds with one another. Choi and Tow seek to address this conundrum by proposing a “middle ground” approach that potentially bridges the gap between exclusivist bilateral and overly inclusivist multilateral pathways. Modeled on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization experience, Choi and Tow’s “inclusive but qualified” membership model of multilateral security politics is one they regard as transferable to an Asian context. Indeed, they make the case that elements of this “inclusive but qualified” model are already evident in South Korea’s approach to regional security politics. In contrast to Choi and Tow, Rikki Kersten’s analysis of the Japan-US alliance – referred to by generations of American policymakers as the “lynchpin” or “cornerstone” of security in the Asia-Pacific – questions the capacity of this longstanding strategic relationship to accommodate Tokyo’s increasing desire to engage more deeply with Asia via multilateral means. Kersten illuminates the interplay and the inherent tensions between Japan’s emerging bilateral and multilateral policy choices, concluding that these ultimately cannot be accommodated within the Japan-US alliance, which in turn carries significant implications for the prospects of achieving a bilateral-multilateral nexus in the Asia-Pacific. Renato Cruz De Castro examines the revitalization of the US-Philippines alliance that has occurred over the decade or more since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. De Castro attributes this alliance revitalization partly to the threat of global terrorism, but also to the more recently perceived security challenges that China’s rise poses to both Manila and Washington. Yet while these twin threats may have served as the glue to bring the US and Philippines closer strategically, De Castro also concludes that they alone will not be sufficient to ensure a deepening and enduring alliance relationship. Instead, he proposes a greater “institutionalization” of this alliance relationship and, indeed, the San Francisco System writ large, but on a multilateral basis underwritten by the shared economic interests and the shared values of its constituent members. In the final chapter of part two, Chulacheeb Chinwanno provides a case study of Thai security policy, which has arguably seen that country strike the most judicious balance of all between bilateralism and multilateralism. Chinwanno illustrates that Thailand’s policy of “balanced engagement” is historically rooted, deriving from a strong desire to avoid repeating past mistakes that have left Thailand unduly dependent upon a single, extraregional power for its protection. It is a strategy currently manifested in Thailand’s three-pronged approach of continued bilateral engagement with the US, concurrent development of informal bilateral defense cooperation with China, and active support for multilateral security arrangements such as the ARF and the ADMM. In an increasingly fluid and complex Asian security environment, Chinwanno predicts a continuation and perhaps even an intensification of these preferences on the part of Bangkok. Part three reverses the causal arrow established in part two, and examines how Asian multilateralism is being both supported and potentially challenged by the emerging nexus between bilateral and multilateral modes of security cooperation. Ralf Emmers begins by highlighting these complementarities and overlaps via a case study of a “minilateral” defense coalition – the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) – and its ramifications for broader security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. Emmers concludes that since its inception in 1971, the FPDA has succeeded in reinforcing both the US bilateral alliance network and the multilateral operations of ASEAN, thereby suggesting that a peaceful coexistence between these modes of security cooperation remains feasible. Aileen Baviera then compares bilateral and multilateral approaches to territorial and maritime jurisdiction disputes in the South China and East China seas. Baviera’s analysis is conducted at two levels: first, at what she terms the “claimant-centered” level where her primary focus is upon whether bilateral or multilateral approaches have thus far proven optimal from the perspective of the various claimant parties to these disputes. Second, like Emmers, she undertakes a broader “security architecturecentered” analysis wherein she asks whether US bilateral relationships can either coexist or eventually integrate into more comprehensive multilateral security approaches in direct response to these disputes. Complementing Baviera’s analysis, David Capie explores Asia’s defense diplomacy, a subject that has thus far received a markedly lower degree of scholarly attention relative to other forms of economic and security cooperation in this part of the world. In his contribution, Capie traces the evolution of Asia’s defense diplomacy and identifies the factors that have led states to prefer bilateral or multilateral approaches. He also seeks to account for the relatively rapid rise of high-level multilateral defense diplomacy in Asia over the past decade and examines what might be done in future to further encourage synergies between bilateral and multilateral approaches to defense diplomacy in Asia. Part four considers the larger question of how the interaction between bilateralism and multilateralism is shaping Asia’s emerging security order. Ryo Sahashi posits that Asia’s security order is currently experiencing a period of profound transformation occasioned largely by the rise of China. In Sahashi’s view, the uncertainties that this development is generating is encouraging small and middle powers to deepen their interactions with China and the US – both via bilateral and multilateral avenues – who are also competing for security cooperation with these regional powers in both bilateral and multilateral settings. Sahashi concludes, however, that the shape Asia’s security order ultimately takes will be influenced most profoundly by the balance of competition and cooperation in the US-China relationship and that the means through which such cooperation is pursued is largely a second order issue. In a similar vein, Hugh White examines the role of US alliances in shap- ing Asia’s emerging security order and, contrary to conventional wisdom, contends that this set of strategic relationships will have little role to play in shaping this process. White’s argument is essentially threefold. First, alliance relationships have historically reflected rather than created international orders. Second, America’s Asian alliances will likely weaken in the face of China’s rise as divergence between the US and each of its junior partners becomes more pronounced. Third, and consistent with this, unless China’s foreign and security policies take a significantly more aggressive turn, White believes that the prospects for any “multilateralization” of America’s presently bilateral alliances are extremely remote. In keeping with the great power emphasis provided by both Sahashi and White, Evelyn Goh examines the place of bilateral and multilateral modes of cooperation in the security strategies of the US, China, and Japan. In contrast to other chapters in this section, however, Goh’s analysis leads her to challenge the continued utility of the distinction between bilateralism and multilateralism – and, indeed, the very concept of the bilateral-multilateral nexus itself – on the grounds that a marked convergence between these two modes of cooperation is occurring in the individual strategies pursued by Washington, Beijing, and Tokyo. This bilateral-multilateral convergence within US, Chinese, and Japanese security strategies is, in Goh’s view, a natural product or extension of emerging great power strategic competition. Against that backdrop, Goh concludes that the underlying tension in Asia’s emerging security order is not between bilateral and multilateral approaches. Rather, it is divergence in the larger visions of international order as conceived of and pursued by this region’s great powers that presents the greatest challenge for practitioners of Asian security going forward. An impressive range of themes emerge from the contributions to this volume. These are addressed in greater depth by Tow in his concluding chapter. One is struck, for instance, by the subtly different approaches taken by each of the contributors to the bilateral-multilateral security nexus. This divergence notwithstanding, however, it is also interesting just how little support for the fourth of Taylor’s proposed conceptual approaches – the bilateral and multilateral approach – is evident amongst the contributions. This, in turn, perhaps reflects the fairly pervasive sense of pessimism emanating from contributions to the volume as to where the future of Asia’s strategic order – and particularly the relationship between the region’s two heavyweights, the US and China – is headed. Consistent with this, the centrality afforded by virtually all contributors to the US-led alliance network is striking, although in the eyes of some this set of strategic relationships will not be free from its own set of quite formidable challenges. Yet it is also revealing that so little emphasis in the contributions is placed upon other modes of bilateral cooperation outside of the US-led alliance network, notwithstanding the fact that these are also clearly intensifying.1 Last but not least, the emergence of “minilateralism” both as a facilitator of greater bilateral-multilateral synergies and as a mode of security cooperation not always easily reconciled within the bilateral-multilateral conceptual dichotomy suggests that this too is an emerging cooperative mode in pressing need of much closer and more rigorous analysis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationBilateralism, Multilateralism and Asia-Pacific Security: Contending Cooperation
    Editors William T. Tow and Brendan Taylor
    Place of PublicationAbingdon and New York
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
    Pages1-7
    Edition1st
    ISBN (Print)9780415625807
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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