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Interpreting the Obama Administration's Rebalance Strategy: Sustaining U.S. hegemony in the Asia-Pacific

Heritage, Anisa Jane (2016) Interpreting the Obama Administration's Rebalance Strategy: Sustaining U.S. hegemony in the Asia-Pacific. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, University of Kent. (KAR id:60953)

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In 2009, with the continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a global financial crisis, fears of American decline were compounded by the 'rise of China' and the potential for a transformation in the Asia-Pacific geopolitical environment that would destabilise the region's post-war order and challenge U.S. regional hegemony. In the same year, the Obama administration initiated a recalibration of U.S. foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific that became known as the strategic rebalance. This thesis examines the way in which the Obama administration has responded to the Asia-Pacific's regional geopolitics through its signature rebalance strategy in order to maintain its hegemonic position. This research contributes to IR by using a constructivist approach and discourse analysis to interpret hegemony as both an intrinsic part of U.S. identity, and a social, asymmetrical relationship, derived from multiple and overlapping sources of power. Hegemony is an asymmetric relationship that requires consent from the Asia-Pacific nations for its ongoing legitimacy. The rebalance strategy is an effort to make the U.S. ontologically secure - to secure its hegemonic identity in the Asia-Pacific. In examining how the U.S. reproduces its regional hegemony from these angles, this thesis develops the constructivist focus on ideas, identity and narrative as being intrinsic to foreign policy output. This approach allows for consideration of the co-constituted relationships between the belief system of American exceptionalism, the 'rise of China' narrative, U.S. hegemonic identity formation and U.S. foreign policy practice. The empirical analysis of U.S. hegemony applies Barnett and Duvall's taxonomy of power to examine the interplay between the different components of American hegemony in the Asia-Pacific. This holistic approach to U.S. hegemony and the exertion of power determines that the U.S. does not solely rely on coercive military power to achieve foreign policy outcomes. Instead, this thesis interprets the rebalance strategy as part of complex processes of social bargains, identity, narratives and forms of power working collectively in the production of U.S. foreign policy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Lee, Pak K.
Uncontrolled keywords: ontological security, international security, US-China relations, Asia-Pacific, South China Sea, East China Sea, identity, hegemony, rising powers, US foreign policy, exceptionalism, rebalance strategy, Obama administration
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 17 Mar 2017 12:00 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 12:21 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Heritage, Anisa Jane.

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