Soft Balancing and the Future of Asian Order in the Trump Era

Professor T.V. Paul
5 April 2017

In recent years, many states especially in the Asia-Pacific have resorted to the use of international institutions and economic instruments to constrain the power of dominant actors. Much of International Relations scholarship fails to capture the use of these non-military instruments for restraining superior power. Analysts have coined the concept of ‘soft balancing’ to describe this phenomenon (Paul, 2005; Pape, 2005). Noticeably, the debate on ‘soft balancing’ has generated much literature in the past half a decade or so. The arrival of the Trump Administration and the not-so-peaceful rise of China have raised the prospects of major security rivalries re-emerging in the Asia-Pacific region. In this seminar, Professor T.V. Paul will discuss among other things, the prospects of ‘hard balancing’, relying on formal military alliances and arms build-ups becoming increasingly prominent in the region. Can states, especially in ASEAN, resort to institutions to balance and restrain the two dominant actors who are vying for hegemony in the region?

About the Speaker: Professor T.V. Paul is James McGill Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. He was the President of International Studies Association (ISA) for 2016-17. Paul is the author or editor of 16 books and over 60 scholarly articles/book chapters in the fields of International Relations, International Security, and South Asia. He is the author of the books: The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World (Oxford, 2013); Globalization and the National Security State (with N. Ripsman, Oxford, 2010); The Tradition of Non-use of Nuclear Weapons (Stanford, 2009); India in the World Order: Searching for Major Power Status (with B.R. Nayar Cambridge, 2002); Power versus Prudence: Why Nations Forgo Nuclear Weapons (McGill-Queen’s, 2000); and Asymmetric Conflicts: War Initiation by Weaker Powers (Cambridge, 1994). A former Vice-president of the ISA, Paul currently serves as the editor of the Georgetown University Press book series: South Asia in World Affairs. For more, see:

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