Liberal Democratic Values and Asia Pacific Security: The promise of peace or a path to conflict?
The past decade has seen the conclusion of a series of bilateral security pacts between the liberal democratic states of the Asia Pacific region. These agreements, between countries including the United States, Australia, Japan and India, have been treated with suspicion by the Chinese government, as evidence of a policy of ‘neo-containment’ led by the US. The common thread that runs through the rationale for each of the agreements is the notion of ‘shared values’ amongst the signatory nations, always referring to human rights, democracy, and open markets. In this context, this paper seeks to investigate the possibility that these liberal values are being used to drive a wedge between the US and its allies and China, effectively establishing a quasi ‘league of democracies’ that has been advocated by some neo-conservatives and liberal hawks in the US. The analysis of these developments has both practical and theoretical significance. First, are the Chinese right to be concerned about these developments and do they represent a Cold War-style policy of containment guided by the US? Second, if the security agreements are intended in this way, what does this tell us about the influence of liberalism in contemporary international politics? Utilising the tools of discourse theory, this paper argues that the security agreements illustrate the problematic place of liberal democratic values in international politics insofar as they promise peace but deliver division and engender hostility toward non-liberal states.