The Crisis of Regional Leadership and Legitimacy in the Asia Pacific
This project asks the question: what constitutes legitimate leadership in the emerging Asia Pacific region? The key hypotheses are that the United States and China are both losing “hard” and “soft” power in the Asia Pacific. Therefore, the legitimacy of both countries as regional leaders is in question.
It is possible that other powers and maybe even the smaller states of the region may step into this emerging vacuum. If this is the case, then theories of international society must be developed and modified to account for these developments.
This project will develop the concept of “legitimate leadership” as it applies to the Asia Pacific region. The major objective of the study is to examine the proposition that the traditional concept of legitimate leadership in international society, as established during the Cold War era, no longer applies in the Asia Pacific. (Masciulli, Molchanov and Knight, 2009; Brezinski, 2012) The study argues that the dominant powers of the Asia Pacific, the United States and China, have each seriously undermined their ability to exercise legitimate leadership in the region.
As a result, the door has opened for emerging powers and the smaller states of the region to play more important roles in defining the normative and political structures and rules of regional conduct. If this is the case, it indicates the need to radically reform IR theories of international society, which tend to focus on the roles of the most powerful states in shaping the global system. A second, less theoretically oriented objective is to understand the evolving political, strategic and economic environments of the AP as more powers become active and influential in the regional dynamic.