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Sharp Power Versus Values Diplomacy in Indo-Pacific
Region: Asia
Location: China
Published July 29, 2019
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In the Trump era, there has been a surge of interest in the upsurge of sharp power as a disruptive force in international relations and the precipitous decline in the role of diplomacy based on values as an ennobling factor in bilateral and multilateral relations. Geostrategic fears and trade protectionism have taken center stage as strains are exacerbated by interference in internal affairs on an unparalleled scale and are rarely ameliorated by reassuring affirmation of shared values. The two principal actors in the Indo-Pacific battle between sharp power and values diplomacy are China and the United States. The first chapter in Part II deals directly with the standoff between the two, principal antagonists. In the following chapters, U.S. allies on the frontlines are covered: South Korea, which was battered by Chinese vilification over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) deployment; Japan, a target of China only recently treated less harshly as Xi Jinping agreed to an official state visit by Abe Shinzo; and Australia, the most conspicuous example of China’s use of sharp power. A final case covered in the chapters to follow is: North Korea, which in 2018 found new ways of using sharp power against South Korea. While authors vary in how they interpret the new concept of “sharp power” and in which country’s value diplomacy they emphasize, this collection of five cases offers a foundation for generalizing about this struggle.

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