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IR theorizing about international order has been profoundly, perhaps exclusively, shaped by the Western experiences of the Westphalian order and often assumes that the Western experience can be generalized to all orders. Recent scholarship on historical East Asian orders challenges these notions. The fundamental organizing principle in historical East Asia was hierarchy, not sovereign equality. The region was characterized by hegemony, not balance of power. This emerging research program has direct implications for enduring questions about the relative importance of cultural and material factors in both international orders and their influence on behavior—for describing and explaining patterns of war and peace across time and space, for understanding East Asia as a region made up of more than just China, and for more usefully comparing East Asia, Europe, and other regions of the world.
East Asia is richer, more integrated and more stable than ever before, whilst East Asian defense spending is now roughly half of what it was in 1990 and shows no sign of increasing. There is no evidence of any Asian arms race. All countries in the region are seeking diplomatic, not military solutions with each other. Yet this East Asia reality still runs counter to a largely Western narrative that views China's rise as a threat and the region as increasingly unstable. In this important book, David C. Kang argues that American grand strategy should emphasize diplomatic and economic relations with the region, rather than military-first policies. Using longitudinal and comparative data, statistical analysis, and intensive research in selected East Asian countries, he suggests that East Asia is in sync with the American desire to share burdens and that the region may in fact be more stable than popularly believed.