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The hegemon's choice between power and security: explaining US policy toward Asia after the Cold War


After the Cold War, US strategists have suggested four strategies for the hegemon: hegemonic dominion, selective engagement, offshore balancing, and multilateralism. Rather than debating which strategy is the best for the US at all times, this article focuses on examining which policy is more likely to be chosen by the hegemon – the US – under different strategic conditions. Through a neoclassical realist argument – the power-perception hegemonic model, I argue that US foreign policy depends on how US policymakers perceive US hegemonic status in the international system. Under rising and stable hegemony, selective engagement and hegemonic dominion are two possible power-maximisation strategies given the weak security constraints from the system. Under declining hegemony, offshore balancing and multilateralism are more likely to be chosen by US policymakers to pursue security because of a resumed security imperative from anarchy. US policy toward Asia after the Cold War is a case study to test the validity of the power-perception hegemonic model. I conclude that US policymakers should prepare for life after Pax-Americana, and early implementation of offshore balancing and multilateralism may facilitate the soft-landing of declining US hegemony.

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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