Chapter 11: The United States and East Asia: The Decline of Long-Distance Leadership?
Mark Beeson 1. INTRODUCTION One of the most inﬂuential sources of leadership in East Asia over the last 50 years or so has come from outside the region itself. Although there is some debate about the extent, basis, durability and nature of American leadership, few would dispute that the United States has exerted a powerful inﬂuence over East Asia, particularly in the period since the Second World War. While the region may not be unique in this regard – the US as the world’s sole remaining superpower has been a major factor in the development of every other region, too – East Asia’s post-war trajectory has been especially marked by American inﬂuence. Indeed, for better or worse, East Asia’s recent development history, its intraregional relations and its place in the overall international system might have been profoundly diﬀerent were it not for its engagement with the United States. Whether the US will continue to exert such a powerful inﬂuence in the future is less clear, however. To understand why the US might loom so large in East Asia’s recent past and how its inﬂuence might be changing, we need to historicize its relationship with the region. This involves saying something about the nature of American power and the way it has been understood theoretically. Consequently, the chapter begins with a brief consideration of the nature of ‘American leadership’, making the point that this can be very diﬀerent from the sort of institutionalized ‘structural’ power that...
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