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Which International Relations Theory Best Explains East Asian International Politics?

The world is changing at a very high pace, and it has caused many alterations in the way states perceive international relations, so that some of them are seeking partnership for economic advancements while others for security reasons. Thus, political influence determines the economic outcomes, faced by a state. Therefore, the development or decline of any country is influenced by decisions, made by the political class. Basing on political decisions, a region embraces either cooperation or competition with the other states.  For example, in case of East Asia countries have built unity in the economic relations, despite of having a history of war and hostility. The researcher conducts an investigation in order to determine the international relations theory of the East Asian region. The study covers the connection between Taiwan and China, realism in Japan, realism in China, and autocracy in China.

East Asia has been a subject of speculation over the past few years, because scholars tried to determine the nature of the region’s international relations (Jackson & Sorensen, 2016). In this region the global market is dominated by China and Japan. After the end of the World War Two many countries in East Asia were left devastated, so it was the responsibility of the leaders to guide their countries to economic success in the context of globalization. This trend continue after the end of the Cold War, when the countries adopted new ways of conducting their international relations under the conditions of economic development, in which most of the countries that were hesitant whether to embrace the global changes or not, suffered greatly during the Asian crisis. Various theories of international relations are connected to countries’ infrastructure and resources, so that policies can be aligned towards a particular theoretical framework. This research aims at finding a theory that best explains the East Asian international relations.

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Realism as International Relations Theory That Best Explains East Asian International Politics

Realism is the international political theory that best describes the East Asian relations. It concerns the aspect of the connection between the public and the private power in the distribution of the scarce resources (Lecture 3). Power is crucial in the international policy in terms of the economy, as it depends on the fact whether or not the state will benefit in the global market. On the other hand, according to the Economic Liberalism, the commercial market is the primary source of prosperity, cooperation, and progress, so it should not be subordinated to politics or government. The structures of the East Asian countries are developed by the government, and most of the countries in the region strive for power, influence, and prestige. For instance in 1949 in Taiwan, the state-owned economy was favored by many people.  Due to this state control of the economy, the government is considered to be intervening in the textile industry, which unfortunately failed to contribute to the economic boom (Lecture 1). It proved unnecessary and counterproductive, since it postponed the country’s industrialization (Gilley, 2014). Unlike the constructivism theory, the characteristics of which determine a state interaction with the international market, the Asian countries interact with the rest of the world with an aim of gaining more power and wealth, so that they can be viewed as being superior. They see the economic development as a tool by which political classes can be in a position to gain power, and, therefore, wage a military war against their aggressive enemies that may threaten their national interests. These aspects of realism have been manifested in most of the East Asian states.

Regional Cooperation as a Result of Realism in East Asia Region

In the past Asian region experienced numerous wars that have led to the strained relations between the countries within it, but nowadays during the globalization era, they have embraced the fact that they have more common features that unite them as a region together due to the fact that each state seeks to protect its national interests on the international arena. The area has begun to enjoy direct foreign investments. It happens due to the government’s cooperation with the other states in the region and the ability to determine how to influence the economy through political means. Constructivism theory, on the other hand, discourages such integration, since it demands from a state to concentrate on its affairs. Some economic institutions have been on the rise in this area over the last 30 years with an aim of promoting and regulating trade in the block as well as monitoring finances and investments. South Korea, Japan, and China have proposed a need to form a free trade area that is also willing to cooperate with the ASEAN, which is the largest organization in the region (Goldstein & Mansfield, 2012). The region has also combined forces by trying to deal with the issue of security together due to the increased economic development of the individual states. Moreover, the countries have acknowledged the fact that peace is essential for their national interests and have therefore opted for resolving their conflicts in a peaceful manner. There has been a reduction in the political-military violence, so that no regional war has started since 1979. With the exception of the isolated conflict between Cambodia and Thailand (Goldstein & Mansfield, 2012), there has been no other intrastate conflicts since 1988.

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With the expansion of the developmental activities, the region has experienced relative peace, and it can be attributed to the fact that most countries in the area have upheld diplomacy as a way of resolving disagreements, so that they did not destroy the level of development they have already achieved. The relations between the United States and the countries in the region, namely, China and Taiwan have helped in preserving peace in the area, since the United States was able to calm the states that seemed to be aggressive towards each other. Another reason for the USA to intervene in the security matters of the region is its need to continue good trading relationship with the area, because most of the states in East Asia are major exporters and importers of the American market. The development also guarantees wealth, good living conditions, and employment opportunities for citizens. Being pre-occupied with constructive activities, they have little time for thinking about wars and conflicts (Goldstein & Mansfield, 2012). Globalization is also another reason for greater regional cooperation. It is clear that in order to compete effectively at the current market and to protect national interests a state has to be a part of the regional block that would help it to gain more revenues.

Autocracy in China 

Due to the realistic approach China has remained a one-party state for the decades, since the government highly influenced the economy. Autocratic regime in China has been in a position to be considered as the East Asian threat that was developing in order to spread its power (Pei, 2016).  Regardless of the setbacks in the economy that have been occurring in the last few years, the citizens are still loyal to the leadership. Even though the outsiders view its orientation as regressive and consider the regime to be insecure, people still have faith in the government. The policies have also being perceived as retrogressive, because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is inefficient and incompetent to deal with fall of the country’s growth rate from 10.6% in 2010  to  6.7% in 2016 (Pei, 2016). The country also has a massive debt, but it does not deter the public from supporting the regime.

Unlike liberal countries, in which economy determines the political features of a state, China uses its political ideologies to shape the economy, and that is the reason why the public has confidence in its leadership. Some reasons have made the citizens appreciate the Chinese leadership, so that they cannot see its drawbacks. First, it is due to the fact that country was in similar situation in the 1970s, and it was the same party leadership that helped the country to overcome the economic recession (Pei, 2016). It has promoted access to information, human capital, and private wealth as well as made more people of both younger and older generations literate that enabled people to consider the country as democratic (Pei, 2016). Second, being a non-oil producing country, on the one hand, and earning high income, on the other hand, China managed to display an excellent performance. Third, there are no pro-democratic social forces in China, so that the country is not in need of demanding any other form of leadership, since the citizens feel that an alteration of the governance may disrupt the economic progress. The emergence of the anticorruption campaigns, introduced by the Xi Jinping (Pei, 2016) has been a good gesture, because many senior government officials together with the thousands of local officials have been punished. It is, therefore, evident that China, as one of the leading economies in the world, has been at the forefront in utilizing the realism theory in the protection of its national interest.

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Realism in Japan

Japan is also a key example of a realist state that has embraced the intervention of the government in the economy, because during his last tenure Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro opted for urging the political class to join him in the process of leading the economy of the country in a different direction (Pyle, 2008). His school of thought was embraced, and the government was given more powers to streamline the economy. He was determined to improve international relations with the other nations, especially with the United States, That is why he visited President George Bush in order to secure the interests of Japan, despite of the fact that this action was negatively perceived by Japanese people, who felt that the Americans had destroyed them during the Second World War (Pyle, 2008). This is contrary to the constructivism theory, which would hinder such economic interactions due to the negative historical experience. It is also in the national interests of the economy that the government has continued to work in partnership with the United States, especially in the sphere of informational technology. 

Relative economic decline in Japan has led to a more assertive approach, applied on the international arena. Due to the pressure from China, the country decided to renew the policy of  deterrence that was used during the decades, especially in terms of the border disputes. It involves the adaptation of a tougher stance in conflicts over the waters and may result in the increased Japanese Air Self Defense patrol due to the anticipation of the Chinese military planes invasion in its airspace. The upcoming generation of Heisei politicians seems to be assertive in a belief that Japan ought to reclaim its place in the international community (Pyle, 2008). It will involve the diversification of the Japanese foreign policy tools. It is due to the adherence to the theory of realism that Japan seeks to protect national interests by interacting with China, whereby the young generation perceives China as a rival in the economic development.

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Even if Japan tries to preserve its status quo in the institutional governance and international rules, it has an ambition of rising to the international level in order to attain prestige, as it has a desire to regain the national dignity. It also becomes more assertive in gaining the permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (Pyle, 2008). The urgency of this matter was so big that ambassadors were recalled and informed that the enhancement of the national dignity was a question of priority. Japan is obsessed with national success, and it means that government will be persistent in attaining economic success of the highest level on the international arena.

Taiwan- China Relation

The interaction between Taiwan and China has been characterized by the desire of both states to advance their national interest. Although China has claimed that Taiwan is part of its territory, it is reluctant to wage any military aggression, because it is afraid to worsen the situation, especially with the United States that is ready to defend Taiwan (Goldstein & Mansfield, 2012). China also sees the opportunity in cooperating with Taiwan in the region, so that if they agree to unify peacefully, China will take advantage of the development in Taiwan by increasing the economic power of the region that would make it greater than the United States. Taiwan has allowed the United States to establish a base in its territory, where they could survey and monitor East Asia and perform their international duty of suppressing the development of the nuclear weapons (Goldstein & Mansfield, 2012). Taiwan, on the other hand, advances its national interest by both ensuring military security and trading partnership on the international arena, where it can export and import the products. In this case, Taiwan has always put its national interest on the first place, just as most of the other East Asian states.

In conclusion, realism is an international relations theory that best explains the East Asian external connections, since the region is characterized by the governmental involvement in the determination of the direction of economy. It is evident that the advancement in economy translates into the state’s power and prestige, so that Japan, for instance, has been assertive in pursuing economic success in order to overpower China in the region. It is also evident that the states of this area seek cooperation in various sectors and try to protect their national interests at the international level. One-party rule in China is expected to continue due to its significant role in achieving success during the hard economic times. Relative economic decline in Japan is supposed to result in a more assertive approach, adopted by the political leadership, as the state will aim to regain its dignity and position at the international market. Finally, both China and Taiwan have been coexisting as different entities due to each other’s national interest, because Taiwan has relations with the United States that protects its security and development, while China seeks peaceful settlement in order to increase the economic benefit.

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