East Asia

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 177–196 | Cite as

Rescaling to the Indo-Pacific: From Economic to Security-Driven Regionalism in Asia

  • Jeffrey D. Wilson


The ‘Indo-Pacific’ has emerged as the newest addition to the lexicon of Asian regionalism. Conceived of as the conjunction of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it reflects the belief that maritime linkages require extending Asian regionalism westwards to include countries on the Indian Ocean rim. It also competes with the longstanding ‘Asia-Pacific’ conceptualisation of the region, and four governments—Australia, India, Japan and the USA—have adopted it into their foreign policies. Much of the debate on the Indo-Pacific focusses on how it institutionally ‘rescales’ Asian regionalism through the incorporation of Indian Ocean states. This article considers the functional rescaling that attends this process: namely, what kind of regionalism is implied by the Indo-Pacific concept? It argues that the Indo-Pacific is a security-focussed regional project, reflecting the desire of its proponents to form a quadrilateral bloc to resist China’s growing maritime assertiveness. This security region is radically different from the Asia-Pacific concept, where regionalism was primarily driven by economic integration and cooperation. The Indo-Pacific thus marks a more contested period in Asia’s international politics, where the functional purpose of regional cooperation is being reoriented from economic- to security-focussed agendas.


Indo-Pacific Asia-Pacific Asia Regionalism Economic governance Security governance 



This research was supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Program (DP150100217). The author would like to thank Anna Chapman for research assistance, and participants in the July 2017 Indo-Pacific: New relationships in a changing regional order workshop for comments on prior drafts.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Asia Research CentreMurdoch UniversityPerthAustralia

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