Security Studies: “Whither the Balancers? The Case for a Methodological Reset”

My latest peer-reviewed article… a critique of traditional methodologies and metrics often employed in contemporary security studies and analysis of four regional states’ military responses to China’s rise…has just been published in the latest issue of Security Studies. The article is “un-gated” and freely downloadable (no journal subscription required). Please let me know if you have trouble accessing it.

Though the focus of the critique is methodological in nature, the extensive empirical section presents an original, up-to-date (as of late Spring 2016) overview of balancing behavior by Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam. Accordingly, I expect it will be of interest to a general readership following contemporary security affairs in the Asia-Pacific and how these states are responding to perceived threats–specific and abstract/potential–from China.

  • AbstractPost-Cold War, balancing theory has fallen on “hard times.” A question of crucial importance for 21st-century peace and stability concerns how Asia-Pacific secondary states are responding militarily to China’s rise. China’s rapid growth, military modernization, and controversial policies vis-à-vis contested space and territories on its periphery make it a prime candidate for counter-balancing behavior. Yet several recent studies claim that secondary states are accommodating, even bandwagoning with, Beijing. This study challenges these claims, attributing them largely to problematic research designs not uncommon in the wider balancing literature. It proposes a methodological corrective, arguing for widespread employment of an alternative analytical framework relying on clearer definitions and explicitly delineated sets of 21st-century-relevant metrics reflecting the myriad ways contemporary militaries enhance their capabilities in response to perceived threats. Applied systematically to original analysis of the contemporary Asia-Pacific, this framework uncovers what existing studies miss—evidence of practically significant, and accelerating, balancing against China.