pacific forum History of Pacific Forum

PacNet #43 – Understanding “hedging” in Asia-Pacific security

Hedging” has become a new buzzword in U.S. strategic discourse, particularly vis-à-vis China. This was most notable in the 2006 National Security Strategy, which stated that U.S. strategy “seeks to encourage China to make the right strategic choices for its people, while we hedge against other possibilities.”  Other authors have ascribed hedging behavior to both the U.S. and China, stressing that they are both pursuing policies that combine “engagement and integration mechanisms” with “realist-style balancing in the form of external security cooperation with Asian states and national military modernization programs.” Other writers have attributed hedging behavior to Japan and, in my own case, to Southeast Asia. The clear similarity in all these studies is the idea that the “hedger’ does not adopt simply a containment or balancing strategy as opposed to engagement, but rather employs a mixture of the two, as “insurance” against the uncertain present and future intentions of target states.