Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Smaller states' alignment choices: A comparative study of Malaysia and Singapore's hedging behavior in the face of a rising China
by Kuik, Cheng-Chwee, Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 2010, 391; 3428626
Abstract (Summary)

This is a comparative study about smaller states' alignment choices in the face of a rising and proximate power. Specifically, it adopts the approach of structured, focused comparison of cases, examining how and why Malaysia and Singapore have responded to a rising China the way they have. The study indicates that Malaysia and Singapore's China policies share four basic features: economically, a pragmatic approach to maximize commercial benefits; diplomatically, an engagement policy to integrate China into the ASEAN-based regional institutions; politically, a dominance-denial position to prevent Beijing from evolving into an unchecked hegemon; and militarily, an indirect-balancing stance to prepare for a possible scenario of failed engagement. Despite these similarities, however, the two countries' policies are critically different in one important aspect. That is, while Malaysia has demonstrated a greater readiness to accommodate and utilize the growing Chinese power as a force to pursue its own interests, Singapore – due to its own domestic and geopolitical calculations – has rejected such a limited-bandwagoning approach.

These findings highlight that smaller states often do not have to choose between balancing and bandwagoning; rather, under the conditions of high-uncertainties and high-stakes, smaller states tend to exhibit different degrees of "hedging" behavior, which, in essence, is a two-pronged approach of maximizing economic and diplomatic returns when things are fine, while simultaneously preparing for strategic contingency in order to mitigate the long-range risks surrounding the rise of a big power.

That the two similarly-situated states have demonstrated dissimilar degrees of hedging behavior further suggests that, while the structural pressures amid the shifting distribution of power do compel both countries to opt for hedging, it is the dissimilar domestic factors that have driven them to hedge differently. These findings lead us to argue that, the substance of smaller states' reactions vis-à-vis a rising power is not determined by their concerns over the growing power gap per se; rather, it is a function of domestic legitimation through which the ruling elites seek to capitalize on the dynamics of the rising power for the ultimate goal of justifying their own political authority at home.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Jackson, Karl D.
School: The Johns Hopkins University
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 71/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian Studies, International Relations, Political science
Keywords: Balancing, Bandwagoning, China, Domestic legitimation, Hedging, Malaysia, Singapore
Publication Number: 3428626
ISBN: 978-1-124-26441-7
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