The changing architecture of politics in the Asia-Pacific: Australia's middle power moment?

Mark Beeson, Richard Higgott
Content Type
Journal Article
International Relations of the Asia-Pacific
Issue Number
Publication Date
May 2014
Japan Association of International Relations
Middle power theory is enjoying a modest renaissance. For all its possible limitations, middle power theory offers a potentially useful framework for thinking about the behavior of, and options open, to key states in the Asia-Pacific such as South Korea, Japan and Australia, states that are secondary rather than primary players. We argue that middle powers have the potential to successfully implement 'games of skill', especially at moments of international transition. Frequently, however, middle powers choose not to exercise their potential influence because of extant alliance commitments and the priority accorded to security questions. We sub-stantiate these claims through an examination of the Australian case. Australian policymakers have made much of the potential role middle powers might play, but they have frequently failed to develop an independent foreign policy position because of pre-existing alliance commitments. We suggest that if the 'middle power moment' is to amount to more than rhetoric, opportunities must be acted upon.
International Cooperation
Political Geography
Japan, Asia, South Korea, Latin America, Asia-Pacific