The Big Challenge of Weak Powers



In this podcast Michael Wesley, Professor and Director of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, discusses the topic, The big challenge of weak powers.

The Obama Administration’s “rebalance” to the Pacific directs US strategy towards two sub-regions, South and Southeast Asia, and places great emphasis on working with “allies and partners” in these regions to ensure stability.

The problem for the United States is that the two great powers of South and Southeast Asia, India and Indonesia respectively, are what could be termed Weak Powers. Weak Powers are states whose anticipatory influence and ambition outweighs their initiative and capacities to deliver. They generally have a strong sense of moral purpose and sense of international entitlement, and more importantly are looked to by other countries to play leadership roles in regional affairs. But despite their size and economic growth, they are unable to mobilise the capacities or concentrate their efforts to fulfil the roles expected of them. The problem they pose for world order lies in their incapacity to engage meaningfully in negotiations on the evolution of international rules and institutions, while maintaining their right to critique current rules.

Michael Wesley is Professor and Director of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University.Professor Wesley has published extensively and has authored several books on foreign policy, including The Howard Paradox: Australian Diplomacy in Asia. He won the 2011 John Button Prize for Best Writing in Australian Politics for his book, There Goes the Neighbourhood: Australia and the Rise of Asia. He was Executive Director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy from 2009 to 2012 and Professor of International Relations and Director of the Asia Institute at Griffith University from 2004 to 2009. He has also taught at a number of other universities in Australia and overseas. Professor Wesley was an Assistant Director-General in the Office of National Assessments in 2003/04 and served as co-chairman of the Security and Prosperity working group at the Australia 2020 Summit in 2008.

This seminar forms part of the new Power, Ethics & World Order seminar series presented by the Department of International Relations, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.

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