Tag Archives: East Asia


How Does A Great Power Become a Superpower?

by Ehsan Ahrari on April 26, 2010, No Comments

Most China-watchers are of the view that it is fast becoming a superpower. I do not disagree with that proposition; however, I believe it has a long way to go in that direction. In the meantime, it must ensure that its economic growth is not affected by any domestic or international negative trend. An interesting conceptual exercise would be to figure out how a great power becomes a superpower? Almost all great powers have the reasonable potential of becoming a superpower. Some stay as great powers for a long time; some may retrench, as was the case with Great Britain; some may lose its status as a superpower when it implodes and its successor does not fill its superpower role, as happened with the USSR and Russia. Why don't all great powers end up as superpowers? Is there a template that each great power must follow to become a superpower, or must each potential superpower develop a sui generis path of becoming one? My sense is that the latter statement is true. (more&hell

China and the U.S.: Between “Low” and “High” Politics

by Ehsan Ahrari on February 8, 2010, No Comments

Watching the developing spat between the PRC and the U.S. over the latter's decision to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, one is reminded of the reality that security affairs have remained part and parcel of "low politics," if that type of politics can be redefined as politics where suspicion, the dark shadows of zero-sum-related competitiveness, and one-upmanship are still lurking and ready to poison the ties between these two important actors. Contrast that version of low politics with its counterpart, "high politics," if that phrase can be redefined as a description of the new realities where China is catching up with the United States, and the latter is beginning to look like an old curmudgeon, getting grumpy about its declining economic power and the related effects. (more…)

Sayonara, Yoshida Doctrine; Hello, Hatoyama Doctrine; Whither U.S.-Japan Ties?

by Ehsan Ahrari on January 31, 2010, No Comments

When the global dialogue about an ostensible power shift to Asia from the West was heating up, no one was imagining that Japan would be reassessing its historical ties with the United States. The Yoshida Doctrine – named after Japan's post-World War II Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida – was expected to be the cornerstone of that country's foreign policy. Toward the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, a new Hatoyama Doctrine – named after its current Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama – seems to be emerging, while Japan might be bidding sayonara to the Yoshida doctrine. (http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713704248&db=all) (more…)

America’s Irrational Expectations About China’s Rise

by Ehsan Ahrari on November 21, 2009, No Comments

President Barack H. Obama's recently concluded trip to East Asia has created an irrational buzz in the American media about how the declining hegemon is increasingly behaving as such, and how China seems to be exploiting that perception to further its own advantages. The second part of this buzz is not contentious, since all great and small powers operate to maximize their advantages. However, the first part of that buzz is indeed controversial. This type of analysis may not be highly conducive to Obama's palpable desire to promote multilateralism, both regionally and globally. (more…)

Managing the Potential Chaos in Cyberspace

by Ehsan Ahrari on March 29, 2009, No Comments

When one looks for a "full spectrum" contest between the United States (the lone superpower) and China (its "peer competitor"), cyberspace stands out as a place where that competition is gathering momentum.  The Pentagon has accused Chinese hackers of breaking into the DOD computer system.  Now, we are hearing about a new round of cyber attacks in Britain and 103 other countries, including NATO members.  The alleged source of the attacks is the PRC.  Needless to say, Beijing is describing those allegations as "baseless."  What is interesting is that the nature of the activities in cyberspace may not be described by the use of the phrase "competition" alone.  It also has the making of a non-kinetic war (kinetic space warfare is excluded from this analysis), with winners and losers.  (more…)

Au Revoir, Indonesia!

by Ehsan Ahrari on November 15, 2008, No Comments

Indonesia has always been a place "way out there in Southeast Asia" for me.  My world travels took me all over the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and Europe, but East Asia remained a place that did not capture my professional interest until 2005, when I visited Singapore.  During that trip, I remember the distinct feeling of ambivalence among a lot of Singaporeans on all issues related to Indonesia.  That further aroused my curiosity.  Since then, Indonesia was the most interesting place for me in East Asia.  Strangely enough, however, my first visit to that country didn't happen until October 2008.   (more…)

The “End” or The “Return” of History: When Will History Make Up Its Mind?

by Ehsan Ahrari on August 26, 2008, 2 Comments

There is something imprudent about strategic thinkers when it comes to history.  For some reason, for some of them, it has to come to an end when an idea experiences a temporary–but significant–success.  But when that idea appears to fail, they make an equally rash extrapolation, and start talking about the "return" of history.  Francis Fukuyama became ebullient regarding the "end" of history when the Soviet Union–the archetype of communist totalitarianism–collapsed.  For him, the triumph of liberal democracy in a dialectical sense was an end of history, where no idea emerged as a superior one.  Robert Kagan, in his new book, The Return of History and the End of Dreams, argues that history did not come to end when the Soviet Union imploded or when the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989.  The triumph of liberal democracy–which then appeared as a shining example of success–proved illusory.  In this sense, he sees a "return" of history.  The end of dreams might be another h