Think Tank (5/2022)
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International Order Transition and US-China Strategic Competition in the Indo-Pacific
10 Aug 2022

A public seminar by RSIS on “International Order Transition and US-China Strategic Competition in the Indo Pacific” had Professor He Kai from Griffith University, Australia, share his thoughts on the challenges to the liberal international order (LIO) and the regional order in the Indo Pacific, especially from the perspective of the rise of China.

Prof He, the speaker of the event held on 10 August 2022, argued that the divergent views around LIO are rooted in contested conceptualisations of what an international order is as well as the untheorised measure of what counts as a “transition” of international order. He proposed a synthesised and deductive approach to defining international order marked by three pillars: power, institutions, and norms. He contended that an order transition will take place when at least two pillars are fundamentally challenged and eventually changed. Applying this deductive, three-pillar conceptual framework of international order, Prof He examined how US-China competition has impacted the current LIO in the Indo Pacific. He noted that the multi-pillar feature of the international order technically strengthens the sustainability and resilience of the current LIO.

Prof He concluded by saying that 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.

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