Confronting China in an Asymmetric Relationship

UNSWUniversity of New South Wales

Distinguished Professor Shih Chih-yu
National Taiwan University

3.30pm-5pm, Tuesday 5 April
Room 310, Morven Brown Building, UNSW, Sydney

Why would a weaker party confront its stronger counterpart in an asymmetric relationship? Both balancing and bandwagoning rely on the calculation of power and as such, these fail to explain the unilateral confrontational approach taken by the weaker party in an asymmetric relationship. Hedging is an alternative to balance of power because it allows the integration of balancing and bandwagoning based upon a longer-term assessment. However, the rationale for the hedging strategy is not compatible with the confrontational approach occasionally practiced by Vietnam, Myanmar, and North Korea, to address issues with China. This is discussed through the perspective of international relations theory of Balance of Relationship and illustrated by a case study that focuses on mechanisms and processes through which Taiwan can assert the propriety of its relationship with China to cope with the latter’s threat to use force. The survey yields three efficacy variables in the formulation of the Taiwanese constituency’s BoR attitudes toward China, which could have universal implications. These variables are the prospect factor, determination factor, and legitimacy factor.

Professionally, Professor Chih-yu Shih is a lifetime Distinguished Professor of Politics at National Taiwan University and Adjunct Professor at National Sun Yat-sen University. He currently teaches anthropology of knowledge and international relations theory. He is the author of many books, including most recently Post-Western International Relations Reconsidered: The Premodern Politics of Gongsun Long (2015), Harmonious Intervention: China’s Quest for Relational Security (2014), Sinicizing International Relations: Self, Civilization and Intellectual Politics in Subaltern East Asia (2013), and Civilization, Nation and Modernity in East Asia (2012). Professor Shih is additionally Editor-in-Chief of the journal Asian Ethnicity. He is MPP of Harvard University and PhD of University of Denver. His current project on the intellectual history of China Studies is accessible at