Think Tank (5/2022)
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Great Power Competition: The Changing International Order and Multilateralism
13 Oct 2022

On 13 October 2022, the Centre for Multilateralism Studies (CMS) hosted the RSIS-Asian Vision Institute (AVI) workshop on “Great Power Competition: The Changing International Order and Multilateralism” that aimed to revisit the ongoing debates on great power competition and its implications for geopolitics and the global political economy. Dr Tomoo Kikuchi, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University, was the first of nine panellists who spoke at the workshop. In his presentation, he explained a two-stage sequential game-theoretic model to investigate how two superpowers compete over members to form alliances by providing club goods.

Dr Su-Hyun Lee, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the MSc International Political Economy Programme at RSIS, and Dr Byungwon Woo, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Department of Political Science and International Studies at Yonsei University, followed up with an examination of how China utilises its foreign aid politically at various institutions of the United Nations (UN). They argued that the allocation of Chinese development projects across countries is closely related to China’s geopolitical and economic interests.


Dr Benjamin Herscovitch, Joint Research Fellow with the ANU National Security College and the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), spoke on how great power rivalry between the US and China has shaped the geoeconomic world order. Using the analytical framework of traditional security dilemmas, he unpacked some of the key escalatory cycles of economic statecraft between the US and China since 2016.

Next, Dr Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, Head and Assistant Professor at CMS, RSIS, focused on small states’ economic statecraft in multilateral agreements. She posited that small states conduct inclusive institutional balancing through cooperation, acting as the negotiation chair, and having a clause that incorporates other powers in the framework.

Dr Chheang Vannarith, President of AVI, discussed the role of small states in multilateralism. He shared that while small states have limited material resources and face constant foreign intervention, they are not entirely without agency. Small states possess room for manoeuvre as they continuously adjust their foreign policy posture to adapt to and navigate the fast-changing geopolitical landscape, often through multilateral platforms.

Dr Anne-Marie Schleich, Adjunct Senior Fellow at RSIS, concluded the workshop with her analysis on how Pacific Island countries work together to address climate change. She noted that the “New Pacific Diplomacy” has helped raised the Pacific Island states’ international profile with climate security agenda and strengthened their global voices in UN negotiations.

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