Asia Europe Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 265–280 | Cite as

Contending logics of strategic partnership in international politics

  • Zhongqi PanEmail author
  • Anna Michalski
Original Paper


Faced with the emergence of strategic partnerships (SP), international actors have approached this new phenomenon in the international system through different logics of action. Such logics are tightly associated with the purposes that the SPs are intended to fulfill for the initiating actor. They also tend to reflect the worldview of the initiators as well as their perceptions of the major organizing principles of the international system. In this article, we investigate three different logics: the conventional, the relational, and the functional. These three logics correspond to the strategies of strategic partnering of the United States (US), China, and the European Union (EU) and reflect both the dominant foreign policy orientation of these actors and their self-perceptions as major poles of power in the world. We analyze the construction of these logics by focusing on the relative importance that each of them accords to interests and values when setting up SPs around the world. We contend that an important conceptual gap exists between the major initiators of strategic partnerships, the US and China, which are both to a large extent driven by a self-perception as Great Powers, although the logics with which they seek to fulfill this role diverge substantially. The EU pursues SPs according to a functional logic which in itself also diverge in significant aspects to both the US and China. Taken together, the interests which dictate the necessity of strategic partnerships and the values which condition their feasibility form four distinct patterns of partnering: the homogenous, marriage-of-convenience, come-in-handy, and heterogeneous SPs. These ideal forms of SPs have distinct but contrasting implications for the structure of the international system.



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of International Relations and Public AffairsFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of GovernmentUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Hong Kong UniversityHong KongChina

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