The historical study of international relations and political behavior created a large base of theoretical approaches to the understanding of the political conduct of particular states. The works of Kang, Walt, and Mearsheimer demonstrate that most of these approaches are based on the Western models and concepts of a state and the reasons behind certain behaviors of a particular country in the international arena. The Western scholars’ inability to give correct predictions regarding the future development of the Asian states contributes to the fact that for the further successful analysis of the actions of these countries on the political and economic level, it is important to consider their national, historical, and cultural features.
There are many ways to link theoretical approaches with the real policy. Walt states that the study of international relations can be explained as a lasting competition between the radical, realist, and liberal approaches. Throughout the period of the Cold War, realism remained the leading theoretical tradition. This approach indicates that international relations can be termed as a permanent struggle for power of the self-interested countries, and thus the scholar asserts that conflicts and wars are inevitable parts of international policies. According to the classical realist theory, different states are willing to dominate others, and this eventually leads to wars. Furthermore, this theory praises the multipolar system and stresses that the bipolarity is dangerous. The neoclassical realist approach suggests that the international system consists of a number of great powers that try to survive on their own, which causes conflicts. In addition, this theory emphasizes that the bipolar system is more stable than the multipolar one.
The next theoretical approach under analysis is liberalism. It asserts that since wars threaten the prosperity of every country, economic interdependence would discourage different states from creating conflicts and using force against one another. The spread of democracy is seen as the main source of establishing the world peace, while international institutions like International Energy Agency or International Monetary Fund are perceived as the force that might prevent states from the selfish behavior. Radical approaches like Marxism define capitalism as the main reason for international conflicts. The capitalist states fought against each other to gain profits, and they also were in conflict with the socialist states, since they believed that those countries might eventually destroy them. The Neomarxist approach states that the powerful capitalist countries became rich by exploiting the less developed ones. Thus, the parasitic capitalist states had to be destroyed.
Currently, it is possible to notice that although there is still a great diversity of understanding international relations, many theories agree on different points. For example, the realists acknowledge that such domestic factors as nationalism or ethnicity are significant; while liberals agree that power defines the international conduct. Walt believes that notwithstanding the fact that the realist approach today remains the most appropriate one for interpreting international relations, it is crucial to keep in mind the views of other paradigms.
This scientist also states that, on one hand, the rising and development of the China might change the global balance of powers, since its growing influence might make the country more ambitious. On the other hand, the China’s future political conduct might be influenced by the spread of democratic principles during the Chinese integration to world markets. Apart from this, the Chinese relations with the rest of the world will be defined by the resolution of the cultural problems, yet the question remains whether China will become another member of the world community or it will be perceived as a singular state that needs special approach.
Kang also emphasizes that earlier the study of international relations was focused on the analysis of the great powers of some particular period, mostly centered around the European and American-Soviet relations, while the behavior of some small states was considered peripheral and not important. Nowadays, however, the other parts of the world start drawing attention. Therefore, a profound knowledge of the contemporary situation in international relations depends not only on the study of the European political relations.
During the last two decades, the Asian region developed a great economic and military power that can rival and exceed the powers of Europe. Besides, in the early 1990s, the Western scientists predicted bad outcomes for the Asian region, while the Asians themselves were quite optimistic about their future. The rising and fast development of Asia proves that European approaches might not function under the conditions of the completely different systems of economy, history, and culture of the Asians. Thus, it might be very problematic for the international relations theorists to explain Asian issues with the help of the approaches based on the European experience.
It is widely accepted that China will face economic problems in the nearest future and that its development will be temporarily halted. Nonetheless, there is a possibility that these predictions will not become reality and that China’s economy will continue to rise. Although today China is limited by the contemporary global balance of power, Mearsheimer believes that in the future China will equate to the USA in the economic and military spheres, and this fact will affect Taiwan significantly. He also argues that the continuing rise of China will bring rather bad consequences for Taiwan. The researcher claims that since China will become more powerful, and eventually it will want to make Taiwan a part of the Chinese territory, and later dominate in Asia the way USA dominates in the West. This will force China to try to eliminate the military presence of the USA in Asia, which will result in a strong security competition between the two countries.
Today the Taiwanese wish their country to become independent, because during the last 65 years a strong Taiwanese identity has grown quickly. The election surveys prove that the contemporary citizens of Taiwan are not interested in being a Chinese province, they prefer to separate from the Chinese identity. In addition, the Taiwan National Security Survey shows that approximately 80% of the Taiwanese view China and Taiwan as different states. However, China clearly stated that it would go to war against Taiwan if it declares sovereignty. The USA also does not recognize Taiwan as the independent country. Thus, the best outcome for Taiwan today is to remain de facto independent, since the alternative to this situation is the unification with China. The main question is whether Taiwan is capable of avoiding this unification on the conditions of the rising Chinese power.
Mearsheimer believes that China will never recognize Taiwan as an independent country, and that it is deeply committed to making Taiwan a part of the Chinese territory. He assumes that China will try to become a regional hegemon in Asia and maximize the difference in power among itself and its close neighbors like Russia, India, or Japan. Eventually, China will also try to make America leave the Asia. This will cause the break of close ties between Taiwan and the USA, which will enhance the possibility of making Taiwan a part of China.
The United States together with China’s close neighbors, which are concerned about the rise of China, might react to the Chinese attempts to dominate Asia by creating an American-led coalition to control China's rise. Hence, Taiwan may become an important player in this anti-China coalition, since it possesses great economic and military resources. In addition, if the USA fails to protect Taiwan from the Chinese aggression, other America’s allies in the Asian region will understand that they cannot rely on the US protection anymore. America will try to maintain its reputation; therefore, the US government will have to back Taiwan.
However, there are reasons why America will not be able to help Taiwan. First, China and Taiwan are located geographically too close to each other while America is too far away. Second, American policymakers might assume that it is strategically wise to abandon Taiwan, since a Sino-American war is out of the America’s interest. Under such conditions in order to maintain its independence, Taiwan can either develop its own nuclear weapon, make China pay a great price and fight a bloody and long-lasting war, or accept the fact that it is doomed to become the part of China and try to gain as much autonomy as possible. The last option might become the most attractive after China becomes powerful enough to conquer Taiwan.
In spite of this, Kang argues that although many analysts note that today China believes that its relation with the United States is rather troubling, because the latter tries to prevent China from gaining influence over the Asian region. Thus, it is still unclear whether China intends to challenge the United States. The scholar asserts that China demonstrated that it consciously limits itself by possessing a rather modest nuclear weapon. However, Kang emphasizes that this attitude might change depending on the actions of the USA. China also showed that it has no imperial aims, since it made efforts to join the World Trade Organization and a number of other regional institutions, regardless of the fact that it has disputes over the territory with a number of states.
Moreover, apart from China, many other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and Russia have unresolved territory disputes that allow concluding that these issues are not the results of the Chinese ambitions. The attempts of the United States to form an anti-Chinese coalition might fail, as many countries of both Northeast and Southeast Asia direct their economic and political powers towards China. Therefore, the predictions of the Western analysts, stating that Asian nations would prefer to choose the United States instead of China, might be wrong. The history of the region demonstrates that the order in Asia was exactly preserved when China was stable.
There are many approaches to the interpretation of the existing situation in the international arena and politics. To create truthful predictions and get a complete understanding of the possible ways of the development of the current events, a good analyst should not solely rely on one theory, but he should use a complex and integrated approach that includes different views and theories. This approach is especially important while analyzing political systems of the Asian countries. The nature of the state and completely different from the Western historical, cultural, and political realities of the Asian states enable to create new and advanced ways to understanding Asia and its role in contemporary international relations.