When we discuss international relations, most theories agree on one hypothesis, which is that international society is anarchic. There is no supranational state to govern the world, and realism says this is a Hobbesian situation, where all countries need to help themselves to survive. Liberalism says countries can still cooperate with others by norms, rules and regimes. So what makes countries compete and cooperate? In my opinion, there are two factors, which are countries’ powers and values, which affect the trends of international relations on a global and regional level.

Firstly, countries’ power is based on their military and economic power, and their powers contribute to the structure of the world and affect the trends of countries’ interactions. According to international relations scholar Organski’s theory, the structure of the world is hierarchical, and the US is the hegemon. The hegemonic power wants to keep the status quo, while the revisionist states pursue more power by challenging the dominant hegemon. In recent years, China is growing its economic and military powers, and it is not satisfied with the international regime which was maintained by the US. On the global level, the US admitted China is a competitor in many fields. They have many disputes like over sovereignty in the South China Sea and human rights. On the regional level, China’s growth also affects the structure of power in East Asia. Its powerful neighbor, Japan, seeks for more coalition building with the US to defend against China’s military power. 

Second, countries’ values can also affect international relations. Two powerful countries who share the same values will not be worried about another’s aggressive intentions, but if those two do not share the same values, they may need to be prepared for defense, and this may result in a security dilemma. This theory is based on Wendt’s social constructivism; he said relations between two countries are built and shared through their constructed subjective perceptions. On the global level, this theory can explain why some European countries are not worried about nuclear weapons from the US, but instead fear Russia: sharing the same values or not may affect relations. On the regional level, a successful example is the European Union. European countries share the same values like democracy and freedom to achieve the EU’s prosperity. While in East Asia, China and Japan and some Asian countries do not have a consensus on such values, which make the situation in the South China Sea more tense. 


Written by Eddie C.

Edited by Ari B.