Hierarchy, stability and Pax Americana

Smaller states should look at America's character and actions, not its position in the world order, in deciding if the superpower can best fulfil their strategic and economic needs

The US Navy’s USS Rafael Peralta (left) and the Australian navy’s HMAS Ballarat conducting maritime manoeuvres off the coast of Queensland, Australia, this month. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

In a recent contribution to this paper, Straits Times editorial writer Asad Latif poses the fascinating question: Which system is more likely to produce peace? By system, he meant the diplomatic system that the powers-that-be rely on to regulate inter-state relations.

He contrasts two systems, a hierarchical one typified by the Chinese tributary system and its tianxia aspirations (of ruling all under heaven), and a horizontal one per the Westphalian system privileging "the formal equality of sovereign states independent of any external, higher authority".

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