Narratives of Security in Asian Geopolitics

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From a global history perspective there is nothing inherently Western in the conceptual basis of Asian security. Despite structural resemblances to the pursuit of security in the contemporary international system, the agents within this order come from a diverse historical and philosophical setting. This article examines two such narratives of security in Asian geopolitics: those of Indic and Chinese origin, in view of their relevance to two of the prevailing rising powers. The Indic Mandala divides into (a) Buddhist-Hindu cosmological insights of security that are of ontological and psychological significance; and (b) the more strategically oriented ‘statal circle’ that has reverberated from antiquity to modern times. Here realist calculations are made in terms of the spatial-relational characteristics of the system. Following the Indic Mandala is the Chinese Paradox with its three representative narratives of (a) ‘harmony in difference’; (b) ‘actionless action’; and (c) ‘the strong need the weak’. The Chinese Paradox receives more extensive treatment as it is China which has had the greatest impact on the changing strategic balance in the early 21st century. Each of the two major narratives of Asian security, though ancient, holds enduring lessons. These lessons are enhanced by what might be regarded as an emergent narrative of security, that of the Islamic transition, in which class, culture, race, and statehood are subsumed in a wider identity of a community of believers. While only used as a suggestive direction within this article, it remains operationally instructive as the unit of geopolitical analysis expands to a larger scale. The article concludes that the West’s global projection of power is but a historical phase, albeit a singularly influential one. It came of age in the Columbian Epoch but is now undergoing decline and transformation to greater polycentricty and geocultural diversity. In creating the conditions of contemporary globalization the West must contend – and be changed by – the world beyond itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalCulture Mandala: The Bulletin of the Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2019


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