chapter  9
18 Pages

Hegemony, oil and Asian regional politics

The concept of hegemony within IR can be understood in different ways. It can be viewed as a relatively neutral description of the preponderance of power in the international system, which can be as much a source of stability and prosperity as of conflict and instability. Some influential theories of IR argue that it is precisely when one power has unrivalled hegemony that there exist the most propitious conditions for international economic and political progress.1 An alternative view of hegemony sees the concept in a more emotive and negative light, as the concrete expression of the desire and ambition of the more powerful to exert control over the weaker and less powerful. It is this concept of hegemony that is most common in the Chinese understanding of the term and reflects the long historical memories of how strong external powers have been seen to interfere in China’s internal affairs and imposed, for example, a series of unequal treaties in the so-called ‘century of humiliation’ (1842-1949).2 In the post-Cold War period, the key questions for Chinese analysts have been the longevity of the period of US hegemony, whether or not a multipolar system is emerging to replace US unipolarity, and the practical ability of China to avoid the negative, controlling aspects of contemporary US hegemony, which is generally viewed as constraining and limiting China’s autonomy and development.3