The Essence of Hedging: Malaysia and Singapore’s Response to a Rising China
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 30, Number 2, August 2008
- pp. 159-185
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Recent International Relations scholarships and policy publications have used the term “hedging” as an alternative to “balancing” and “bandwagoning” in describing small states’ strategies towards a rising power. In the case of Southeast Asian countries’ responses to a reemerging China, more and more analysts have asserted that none of the smaller states are pursuing balancing or bandwagoning in the strict sense of the terms, and that the states are in fact adopting a “middle” position that is best described as “hedging”. This paper seeks to assess this assertion by performing three principal tasks. First, it attempts to identify the key defining attributes and functions of hedging as a strategy that is distinguishable from pure forms of balancing and bandwagoning. Second, it aims to operationalize the term within the context of Southeast Asia-China relations, by focusing on the cases of Malaysia and Singapore’s response to China in the post-Cold War era. Third and finally, the study explains why these two states have chosen to hedge in the way they do. The central argument of the essay is that the substance of the two smaller states’ policies are not determined by their concerns over the growth of China’s relative power per se; rather, it is a function of regime legitimation through which the ruling elite seek to capitalize on the dynamics of the rising power for the ultimate goal of justifying their own political authority at home.