The RSIS book launch seminar by Prof T.V. Paul for his latest book, Retraining Great Powers: Soft Balancing from Empires to Global Era, took place on 14 March 2019 at Marina Mandarin Singapore. In his introduction to the book, Prof Paul elaborated on traditional approaches to understanding great power dynamics and explained why intense hard balancing has not been the obvious choice of behavior for states. Instead, he argued that states are engaging in “soft balancing” strategies. Prof Paul identified some ideal conditions for the success of soft balancing and argued that soft balancing is a great tool for states to to navigate a complex and fluid global order that requires flexible strategies.
The session was followed by a discussion led by Prof C. Raja Mohan, Director of the Institute of South Asia Studies, National University of Singapore. Prof Mohan pointed out that the book touches on important concepts that are accessible even to readers who are unfamiliar with international relations concepts. He added that a multilevel analysis – one that delves additionally into the domestic, individual, and sociocultural level of states – may provide a more nuanced perspective. A vibrant Q&A session followed with Prof Ralf Emmers, Dean of RSIS, as moderator. The session discussed a broad range of issues including the role of ideologies, the relationship between ideology and power, China’s moves to becoming a legitimate major power, and the role of institutions.