The power shift between the United States and China is often misunderstood as a two-player drama. This book draws attention to the 20 or so “middle powers”—countries such as Australia, Indonesia, South Korea, and Turkey—that have as much to gain or lose as the two main actors. The contributors argue that instead of bandwagoning with a rising power, middle powers have historically tried to mediate conflicts, promote multipolarity, and strengthen the role of international norms and institutions. The eight country case studies collected here, which also include Brazil, Malaysia, South Africa, and Thailand, confirm that today’s middle powers are mostly behaving according to this model. They often try to distinguish themselves with “niche diplomacy,” in areas such as peacekeeping, foreign aid, and the environment, and to increase their influence through regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Although these middle powers try to ward off excessive influence from either major power, their policy preferences overlap more with Washington’s interests than with Beijing’s.
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