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Offensive Realism and Future of China's Rise in Asia

Asia
China
Foreign Policy
International Relations
USA
Neo-Realism
Stanislav Myšička
Department of Political Science, Philosophical Faculty, University of Hradec Králové
Stanislav Myšička
Department of Political Science, Philosophical Faculty, University of Hradec Králové

Abstract

Due to enormous economic, social and to some extent political changes in China, foreign policy of Asia’s giant steadily becomes one of the main subjects in international relations studies. One of the most important questions about China’s rising military and economic power is whether this trend will possibly lead to great power confrontation in the future or that China will become the bedrock of future status quo in international relations. John Mearsheimer’s theory of offensive realism claims that great powers living in a highly competitive anarchical world would maximize its power relentlessly with the goal to assure their survival by achieving hegemony. Historically, the dominant players in the international system tended to aspire for regional hegemony, according to Mearsheimer’s theory, because such status would maximize their long-term security. Few achieved hegemony in the international system, however, those were able to achieve this feat practically shielded themselves from the most severe security threats to their survival. Mearsheimer predicts that China will try to become regional hegemon in Asia in its search for its own security, which will, however, inevitably lead to counter-balancing moves by today’s only regional hegemon in the world, the United States. For Mearsheimer, the PRC will try to emulate US foreign policy of the 19th and 20th century that made the United States practically immune to immediate threats to its survival. I argue in this paper that the theory of offensive realism is both lacking theoretical accuracy and support in empirical cases. I will try to show that aggressive bids for hegemony leads in most cases to diminished security status and that contemporary China would seriously undermine its chances to become a secure state if it will attempt to become true regional hegemon pace Mearsheimer’s theory. Lastly, I will show some inherent contradictions within the theory of offensive realism, which in my point of view lead to unpractical and in the end faulty policy recommendations for US policy towards China in some of the published Mearsheimer’s works.