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A positive security environment for Asia won't just depend on common interests between the region's major powers. It will also need shared values, and not just among allies (such as Australia and the US) or sub-regional partners but also between strategic competitors with differing political systems including the US and China. It is not easy to divide interests (the things that are advantageous to us) from values (the higher goals of life, such as freedom, which we regard as inherently good). And even if we could discover a set of values which can be agreed on by Asia's major powers, we would still find allies let alone competitors disagreeing on the relative importance of the values on the list. Some difficult trade-offs would then be needed, and it would be very unwise to treat security as the ultimate objective to which all other goals in Asia must be subordinated. These are not reasons to ignore values. But they indicate how challenging it will be to establish an enduring strategic bargain in the region.
Robert Ayson is on research leave from Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) and is currently Visiting Fellow with the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC). Formerly Director of Studies for the SDSC, in 2010 he was appointed Professor and Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at VUW. He has also held academic positions with the Massey University and the University of Waikato, and official positions in New Zealand with the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee and what is now the National Assessments Bureau. He is also an Honorary Professor with the New Zealand Defence Force Command and Staff College. Ayson completed his PhD in War Studies at King's College London as a Commonwealth Scholar and an MA at the ANU as a New Zealand Defence Freyberg Scholar. He is the author of Thomas Schelling and the Nuclear Age (Frank Cass, 2004) and Hedley Bull and the Accommodation of Power (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), and is currently writing a book on Asia's Security.