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The Geography o f the Peace I Robert S. Ross East Asia in the Twenty-first Century I T h e discussion of post-Cold War East Asia has focused on the prospects for regional tension and heightened great power conflict. Some scholars believe that tension will increase because of the relative absence of the three liberal/Kantian sources of peace: liberal democracies, economic interdependence, and multilateral institutions . Realists argue that the rise of China and the resulting power transition will create great power conflict over the restructuring of the regional order. Neorealists point to the emergence of multipolarity and resulting challenges to the peaceful management of the balance of power.' East Asia has the world's largest and most dynamic economies as well as great power competition. This combination of economic and strategic importance ensures great power preoccupation with the East Asian balance of power. But great power rivalry is not necessarily characterized by heightened tension, wars, and crises. This article agrees that realist and neorealist variables will contribute to the character of regional conflict, but it stresses that geography can influence structural effects. Although many factors contribute to great power status, including economic development and levels of technology and education, geography determines whether a country has the prerequisites of great power status; it determines which states can be great powers and, thus, Robert S. Ross is Professor of Political Science, Boston College, and Associate of the John King Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University. His most recent books are Great Wall and Empty Fortress: China's Search for Security (coauthor) (New York: W.W. Norton, 2997) and Negotiating Cooperation: US-China Relations, 1969-1989 (Stanford, Calif..:Stanford UniversityPress, 2995). I am grateful to Robert Art, Richard Betts, Thomas Christensen, Paul Godwin, Avery Goldstein, Robert Kaufman, Seung-young Kim, Donald Klein, Phillip Saunders, and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article. 1. For pessimistic analyses, see Aaron L. Friedberg, "Ripe for Rivalry: Prospects for Peace in a Multipolar Asia," International Security, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Winter 1993/94),pp. 5-33; Richard K. Betts, "Wealth, Power, and Instability: East Asia and the United States after the Cold War," ibid., pp. 34-77; and Charles A. Kupchan, "After Pax Americana: Benign Power, Regional Integration, and the Sources of StableMultipolarity," International Security, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Fall 1998),pp. 62-66. See also Gerald Segal, "East Asia and the Constrainment of China," International Security, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Spring 1996),pp. 107-135; and Douglas T. Stuart and William Tow, A U S . Strategy for the Asia-Pacific: Building a Multipolar Balance-of-Power System in Asia, Adelphi Paper No. 229 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies [IISS], 1995).Samuel Huntington argues that Chinese hegemony is all but inevitable, so that the United States must accommodate China. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996). Internationnl Security, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Spring 1999),pp. 81-118 0 1999 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 82 International Security 23:4 I 82 whether East Asia will be bipolar or multipolar in the twenty-first century. Geography also has two effects on the management of the balance of power. First, it affects the interests of the powers, thus influencing conflict over vital interests. Second,it affects whether a great power relationship is offense dominant or defense dominant, thus determining the severity of conflict from the security dilemma. Geographic and structural incentives can often reinforce each other. But when geography and polarity create countervailing pressures, geography trumps structure. Nuclear weapons have transformed international politics, not least as deterrents to general war. But the Cold War revealed that in the shadow of nuclear war great power conflict continues over allies, spheres of influence, and natural resources. It also revealed that great powers continue to participate in crises, arms races, and local wars, and to threaten general war. Similarly, nuclear weapons have not eliminated the effect of geography on state behavior. This article stresses that just as political scientists tried to understand the geography of the future balance of power...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 81-118
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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