This article traces East Asia’s evolving multilateralisms and role in transitioning East Asia away from “US hub-and-spokes” bilateralism toward a more networked system of security arrangements. Drawing on the English School, it argues for revisiting multilateralism’s diplomatic foundations as a way to direct attention to (1) the practice’s region-specific content and (2) the ways that multilateralism has introduced system-transitioning changes that include system-level dynamics associated with membership, actor hood, and the types of security at stake. The result is a more complex security environment and normative context that calls for more multifaceted responses from all, including the United States and China whose current multilateral diplomacies both draw from and challenge the multilateral norms and practices that have been created. Theoretically, re-attention to multilateralism’s diplomatic foundations also offers the English School an opportunity to make more distinctive contributions to ongoing debates about East Asia’s networking processes and security arrangements.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
See, footnote 2 of Dian and Mejier’s introduction to this Special Issue.
Goh (2013) offers the most systematic treatment of East Asia’s “layered” order.
The author appreciates a reviewer’s suggestion to underscore this point.
Adler, E. 2005. Barry Buzan’s use of constructivism to reconstruct the English School: Not all the way down’. Millennium 34 (1): 171–182.
Alagappa, M. (ed.). 2003. Asian security order: Instrumental and normative features. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Arase, D. 2010. Non-traditional security in China-ASEAN cooperation: The institutionalization of regional security cooperation and the evolution of East Asian regionalism. Asian Survey 50 (4): 808–833.
Ba, A.D. 2009a. Regionalism’s multiple negotiations: ASEAN in East Asia. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 22 (3): 345–367.
Ba, A.D. 2009b. (Re) negotiating East and Southeast Asia: Region, regionalism, and the association of Southeast Asian Nations. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Blair, D.C., and J.T. Hanley Jr. 2001. From wheels to webs: Reconstructing Asia-pacific security arrangements. Washington Quarterly 24 (1): 5–17.
Bloomberg. 2016. Obama’s ‘pivot’ to Asia staggers as trade Deal Stalls, China Rises (May 16, 2016).
Bull, Hedley. 1977. The anarchical society: A study of order in world politics. New York: Columbia University Press.
Buzan, B. 2004. From international society to world society? English School and the social structure of globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Caballero-Anthony, M. (ed.). 2005. Regional security in Southeast Asia: Beyond the ASEAN way. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Camroux, D. 2012. Regionalism in Asia as disguised multilateralism: A critical analysis of the East Asia summit and the Trans-Pacific partnership. The International Spectator 47 (1): 97–115.
Capie, D., and B. Taylor. 2010. The Shangri-La dialogue and the institutionalization of defence diplomacy in Asia. The Pacific Review 23 (3): 359–376.
Cha, V.D. (2003). The dilemma of regional security in East Asia: Multilateralism versus bilateralism. In Regional conflict management, ed. P.F. Diehl and J. Levgold, 104–122. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Chu, S. 2007. The APT process and East Asian security cooperation. In Reassessing security cooperation in the Asia Pacific, ed. A. Acharya and E. Goh, 155–176. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Cossa, R. 2009. Evolving US Views on Asia’s Future Institutional Architecture. In Asia’s new multilateralism: Cooperation, competition, and the search for community, ed. M.J. Green and B. Gill, 33–54. New York: Columbia University Press.
Emmerson, D. (2010) ASEAN and American engagement in East Asia. East Asia Forum (25 April).
Envall, H.D.P., and I. Hall. 2016. Asian strategic partnerships: New practices and regional security governance. Asian Politics and Policy 8 (1): 87–105.
Finnemore, M. 2001. Exporting the English School? Review of International Studies 27 (3): 509–513.
Foot, R. 1998. China in the ASEAN regional forum: Organizational processes and domestic modes of thought. Asian Survey 38 (5): 425–440.
Foot, R. 2014. Social boundaries in flux: Secondary regional organizations as a reflection of regional international society. In Contesting international society in East Asia, ed. B. Buzan and Y. Zhang, 188–206. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gill, B., M.J. Green, K. Tsuji, and W. Watts. 2009. Strategic views on asian regionalism: Survey results and analysis. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Goh, E. 2011. Institutions and the great power bargain in East Asia: ASEAN’s limited ‘brokerage’ role. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 11 (3): 373–401.
Goh, E. 2013. The struggle for order: Hegemony, hierarchy, and transition in post-Cold War East Asia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goldstein, A., and E. Mansfield. 2012. The nexus of economics, security, and international relations in East Asia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Grossman, D. 2019. Quad supports US goal to preserve rules-based order. The Strategist (7 February).
Ha, H.T. 2019. ASEAN Outlook on the Into-Pacific: Old Wine in New Bottle? ISEAS Perspective 51 (June 25).
Hall, I. 2006. Diplomacy, anti-diplomacy and international society. In The anarchical society in a globalized world, ed. R. Little and J. Williams, 141–161. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
He, K. 2015. Contested regional orders and institutional balancing in the Asia Pacific. International Politics 52 (2): 208–222.
Heginbotham, E., and R.J. Samuels. 1998. Mercantile realism and Japanese foreign policy. International Security 22 (4): 171–203.
Huisken, R. (ed.). 2009. The architecture of security in the Asia-Pacific. Canberra: Australian National University Press.
Johnston, A.I. 2008. Social states: China in international institutions, 1980–2000. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Joint Declaration of the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China on Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity, 8 October 2003.
Kang, D.C. 2004. Hierarchy, balancing, and empirical puzzles in Asian international relations. International Security 28 (3): 165–180.
Keohane, R.O. 1990. Multilateralism: An agenda for research. International journal 45 (4): 731–764.
Khong, Yuen-Foong. 2014. East Asia and strategic ‘deep rules’ of international/regional society. In Contesting international society in East Asia, ed. B. Buzan and Y. Zhang, 144–166. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Le Thu, H. 2018. Southeast Asian perceptions of the quadrilateral security dialogue. Canberra: Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Leifer, M. 1996. The truth about the balance of power. In The evolving pacific power structure, 47–51. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Madan, T. 2017. The rise, fall, and rebirth of the quad. War on the Rocks (November 16) https://warontherocks.com/2017/11/rise-fall-rebirth-quad/. Accessed: 13 Dec 2018.
Maniam, Hari. 1991. Baker urges against replacing proven security arrangements that include U.S. AP (25 July).
Milner, A. 2011. Analysing Asian regionalism: What is an ‘architectural perspective’? Australian Journal of International Affairs 65 (1): 109–126.
Mulgan, A.G. 2008. Breaking the mould: Japan’s subtle shift from exclusive bilateralism to modest minilateralism. Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 30 (1): 52–72.
Narine, S. 2006. The English school and ASEAN. The Pacific Review 19 (2): 199–218.
Pempel, T.J. 2013. Economy-security Nexus in Northeast Asia. London: Routledge.
Quayle, L. 2013. Southeast Asia and the english school of international relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Reus-Smit, C. 2002. Imagining society: Constructivism and the English School. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 4 (3): 487–509.
Rogin, J. 2018. Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy: Where’s the beef? (opinion). The Washington Post (June 6).
Ruggie, J.G. 1992. Multilateralism: The anatomy of an institution. International Organization 46 (3): 561–598.
Ruggie, J.G. 1994. Third try at world order? America and multilateralism after the Cold War. Political Science Quarterly 109 (4): 553–570.
Sharp, P. 2010. “Diplomacy” in international studies. International Studies Association. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Spandler, K. 2015. The political international society: Change in primary and secondary institutions. Review of International Studies 41 (3): 601–622.
Storey, I. 2012. China’s bilateral defence diplomacy in Southeast Asia. Asian Security 8 (3): 287–310.
Storey, I., and M. Cook. 2018. The trump administration and Southeast Asia: America’s Asia policy crystalizes. ISEAS Perspective (29 November).
Terada, T. 2006. Forming an East Asian community: A site for Japan-China power struggles. Japanese Studies 26 (1): 5–17.
Tow, W.T. 2018. Minilateral security’s relevance to US strategy in the Indo-Pacific: challenges and prospects. The Pacific Review. https://doi.org/10.1080/09512748.2018.1465457.
Watson, A. 2005. Diplomacy: The dialogue between states. London: Routledge.
Wesley, M. 2003. Mediating the global order: The past and future of Asia-Pacific regional organizations. In Asia Pacific security: Policy challenges, ed. D. Lovell, 154–165. Singapore: ISEAS 2003.
Wicaksana, I.G.W. 2016. International society: The social dimensions of Indonesia’s foreign policy. The Pacific Review 29 (5): 741–759.
Wiseman, G. 2011. Norms and diplomacy: The diplomatic underpinnings of multilateralism. In The new dynamics of multilateralism boulder, ed. J. Muldoon, 5–22. CO: Westview Press.
Yuzawa, T. 2005. Japan’s changing conception of the ASEAN Regional Forum: From an optimistic liberal to a pessimistic realist perspective. The Pacific Review 18 (4): 463–497.
The author gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Czech Science Foundation under the standard research Grant No. GA16-02288S.
Conflict of interest
The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
This article is part of the Special Issue: Networking Hegemony: Alliance Dynamics in East Asia.
About this article
Cite this article
Ba, A.D. Multilateralism and East Asian transitions: the English School, diplomacy, and a networking regional order. Int Polit 57, 259–277 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-019-00202-x
- Security multilateralism
- English School
- Security networks
- Power transition