International Relations Of Asia


"This is the only region in the world where so many combinations and
permutations of two- three and four- and even two plus four or three plus three-
power games can be played on the regional chessboard with all their complexities
and variations."


The concept of strategic geometry comprises the notion that that the
interactions and interconnections between a number of political actors within a
particular system of international relations, either global or regional can be
seen in terms of geometric patterns of strategic configurations. It can be a
case of simple geometry, in which A interacts with B: but in a more complex
system such as that of Asia, with the presence of more than one major actor,
each with their distinct, sometimes conflicting political agendas, the
interaction between A and B will be likely to affect C or influenced by C.
The concept of an international ?system' itself implies that events are
not random, and units within the system are interrelated in some patterned way.
This ?patterning' maybe envisaged or conceptualized as patterns of strategic
Any attempt to analyze the transition from a Cold War system of
international relations to a post Cold War one, will incorporate an analysis of
the general nature of the system itself, in this case the system of
international relations in Asia; of the actors involved and their respective
roles; how changes in the political environment and in specific policies of the
actors shape the evolution of a new system; and finally the nature of the new
system with its own actors, their new roles, and new concerns.
The concept of strategic geometry enables us to understand these
changes in the political dynamics from one system to another, in our case the
transition from the Cold War to the post Cold War era, by serving as an analytic
tool. If we view the international relations of Asia, more and the interactions
of the main actors in terms of strategic configurations and geometric patterns
of alignments and oppositions, then we can assess changes in the political
system over time by way of the changes in the strategic geometry. Some strategic
configurations change, others remain the same, while new patterns of strategic
geometry appear, as the old forms dissolve--the explanations behind the shifting
pattern of strategic geometry is what enables us to understand the transition
from the Cold War era to the post Cold War.
Geopolitical and politico-economic factors have in some cases changed
the content, but not the form of the particular strategic configurations and in
some cases however, we find both form and content are changed. In my essay I
will focus on this dual analysis of the content and form of the major patterns
of strategic geometry and their change over time from Cold War to post Cold War.
In order to assess the usefulness of the concept of strategic geometry, we must
first see how well the concept is expressed in the international relations of
Asia. Firstly I will briefly outline the general strategic concerns or tenets of
the Cold War era, the roles and interactions of the actors involved, and the
major strategic geometric patterns this produced. The second part of my essay
will comprise an analysis of the evolution of the system, and the tenets of the
new post cold war system, drawing attention at the same time to the usefulness
of the concept of strategic geometry to explain the transition.
One may even conceptualize pre -Cold War international relations in
strategic geometric terms: the past is replete with instances of three-way
interactions between Japan, China and the Soviet Union. According to Mandlebaum,
the fate of the region has "for the last two centuries' depended ?on the fate of
three major powers--China, Japan and Russia, on the stability and tranquillity
of their mutual relations." Hence we may presume that it is not novel or
unknown to apply the concept of strategic geometry to Asia and as I shall
illustrate it will prove particularly useful in understanding the transition
from the Cold War to the post Cold War era.
Let us begin with a simpler model of strategic geometry which existed in
Europe during the Cold War. From 1948 onwards, a more or less clear-cut line
divided Europe into two main political and military blocs: the communist bloc
and the free world of Western Europe, resulting in an almost perfect bipolarity.
However, the politics in Asia during the same period were more dynamic and
nuanced than just the simple East-West divide of Europe. Here, there was none
of "the sharp structural clarity of Europe," no drawing of a line, no Iron
Curtain; rather, there existed a more complex web of international relations,
because of the physical presence of three