The United States, China, and the Politics of Hegemonic Ordering in East Asia

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    China’s rise has raised important questions about the durability of US hegemony in East Asia. Much of the debate, however, has generally been cast in fairly simplistic terms, suggesting the durability or end of US regional hegemony. Such framings nevertheless fail to fully capture regional dynamics and complexity. Advancing an English School conception of hegemony, this paper examines the politics, contestation, and renegotiation of the post–Cold War US hegemonic order in East Asia. It maps out four logics of hegemonic ordering in the existing literature, outlines their shortfalls and advances a twofold argument. First, although regional order will not disintegrate into binary “order versus disorder” or “US versus Chinese hegemony” scenarios, the politics of hegemonic ordering— the interactive discourses, processes, relations, and practices that underpin hegemony—will intensify as the United States and China continue to both cooperate and compete for power, position, and influence in East Asia. Second, I argue that the East Asian regional order will evolve in ways that resemble hybrid forms of hegemony in a complex hierarchy. Specifically, I develop a new logic—“coalitional and collaborative hegemonies in a complex hierarchy”—that is anchored in assertiveness, fluidity, and compartmentalization. It demonstrates that Washington and Beijing will not only form coalitional hegemonies, seeking legitimation from multiple and often overlapping constituencies, but also engage in a collaborative hegemony on shared interests. This better reflects evolving regional dynamics and yields theoretical insights into examining hegemonic transitions less as clearly delineated transitions from one distinct hegemonic order to the next, and more as partial and hybrid ones.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1208-1229
    JournalInternational Studies Review
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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