The world is changing, and the liberal international order (LIO) is at stake. Scholars and pundits hold different views on whether and how an order transition will take place. We argue that the divergent arguments around LIO are rooted in contested conceptualizations of what an international order is as well as the untheorized measure of what counts as a “transition” of international order. We propose a synthesised and deductive approach to defining international order with three pillars: power, institutions, and norms. We argue that an order transition will take place when at least two pillars of the order are fundamentally challenged and eventually changed. Applying this deductive, three-pillar conceptual framework of international order, we preliminarily examine how US-China competition has impacted the current LIO in the Indo Pacific. We conclude that the multi-pillar feature of the international order technically strengthens the sustainability and resilience of the current LIO. Even though China’s rise might change the power distribution in the system — the power pillar of the order, the mere power shift between China and the United States will not lead to a real order transition if the other two pillars of the order remain intact.
About the Speaker
He Kai is a Professor of International Relations and the Director of the Centre for Governance and Public Policy, Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. He is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow (2017–2020). He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program (2009–2010). He is the author of Institutional Balancing in the Asia Pacific: Economic Interdependence and China’s Rise (Routledge, 2009), the co-author of Prospect Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis in the Asia Pacific: Rational Leaders and Risky Behavior (Routledge, 2013), and the author of China’s Crisis Behavior: Political Survival and Foreign Policy (Cambridge, 2016). His latest book is Contesting Revisionism: The United States, China, and Transformation of International Order (Oxford, 2021, co-authored with Steve Chan, Huiyun Feng, and Weixing Hu).