Hannes Ebert / Daniel Flemes / Georg Strüver

The Politics of Contestation in Asia: How Japan and Pakistan Deal with their Rising Neighbors

The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 7, 2014, 2, 221-260
Verlagswebsite | DOI

Rising powers have attracted tremendous interest in international politics and theory. Yet the ways in which secondary powers strategically respond to regional changes in the distribution of power have been largely neglected. This article seeks to fill this gap by presenting a systematic comparative analysis of the different types and causes of contestation strategies undertaken by secondary powers. Empirically, it focuses on two contentious regional dyads in East and South Asia, exploring how structural, behavioral, and historical factors shape the way in which Japan and Pakistan respond, respectively, to China’s and India’s regional power politics. The article concludes that the explanatory power of these factors depends on the respective secondary power’s particular context: in the case of Japan, China’s increasingly assertive regional behavior combined with a nontransparent military buildup has invoked the most significant strategic shifts, while in the case of Pakistani contestation, an increasing threat perception in the late 1980s led to the return to a pre-1971 revisionist agenda, whereas the overt nuclearization in the late 1990s mitigated India’s growing conventional superiority and enabled Islamabad to replace soft balancing with more direct means of hard balancing.

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