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Write a research proposal in which they outline the problem context, briefly review other research, and specify: a particular problem; data that is relevant to addressing the problem; a method for collecting the data; a methodology for interpret Essay Example

3Middle Powers

Australia and South Korea as Middle Powers


Australia and South Korea as Middle Powers

Research Problem and Justification

According to Woodard (2017, 25), a middle power is an independent nation that is neither a superpower nor a great power even though it has significant authority and international acknowledgement. As nations in the Asia Pacific get intimidated due to the changeability of US policy in the region, the situation provides the chance for Australia and South Korea as middle powers to extend their authority and influence the region’s security planning. By working together on an extensive and more proactive foreign strategy, each state can help curb the risk of unsteadiness and at the same time expand their economic and political power in the region (Scott 2013, 111). In the case that a conflict arises, the middle powers would have to work together to ensure the safeguarding of their security. However, for the two countries to be able to attain vital developments, it is essential to consider their positions as middle powers. There is a need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of both Australia’s and South Korea’s diplomacy to establish whether they fit the position of middle power before examining strategies that they can use to expand their influence (Lee 2016, 8). Australia and South Korea have a solid mutual relationship, but there are a number of considerations on their strengths and weaknesses as middle powers that the two states should view and then deliberate on the various ways they can collaborate to attain greatness in the region.

This study focuses on coming up with conclusions that can establish the opportunities that Australia and South Korea can take to extend their influence in the region and shape their economic and political development. By deliberating on the strengths and weaknesses in the diplomacy of the two states, the study will determine areas that the nations can work on to improve their positions as middle powers. Additionally, the research would also provide suggestions on factors that the two countries should consider in strengthening their bilateral relationship to shape their power in the region. Therefore, this study focuses on answering two key questions;

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Australia and South Korea as middle powers?

  2. What are the ways in which Australia and South Korea can better collaborate to expand their power in the region?

Literature Review

According to Jervis (2017, 52), a middle power should have economic stability, political strength, high rates of literacy as well as employment, and a significant geographical location. Progressive theories concerning middle powers assess how the nations relate with others globally and the roles they play in influencing world politics. Jervis (54) describes middle powers as those states that are at the midpoint of global chain of command. Kim (2015, 255) explains that Organski’s power transition theory recognizes three stages of development. The first level is underdeveloped nation with power capability, the developing country enlarging its aptitude to use authority, and lastly, the developed state attaining the summit of its control capability. Hence for international security, there needs to be the existence of various states in different levels of the categorical pyramid to ensure a balance of power. In cases where conflicts occur the various nations with varying influences can come together to ensure resolution of the issue and sustenance of world peace (Onis and Kutlay 2017, 181).

Wilkins (2017, 113) points to niche diplomacy and partnership as key to middle power development in propelling policy schemes. Considering the fact that middle powers are less probable to receive benefits from superior powers as compared to underdeveloped states, the best way to boost development and expand their influence is through collaboration. Wilkins (2017, 79) further explains that niche diplomacy is essential for the states to seek effective policy strategy initiatives. Using niche diplomacy, the nation should discerningly tackle particular matters based on the probability of getting support from similar states and being able to push each other towards development and expansion of power. According to Onis and Kutlay (2017, 168), middle powers have certain features that Ravenhill describes such as their ability to act, their pulling of resources through niche diplomacy, innovativeness in responding to global agenda, capacity to build coalitions, and reliable repute. Therefore, using their strong characteristics to their advantage, middle powers such as Australia and South Korea can join forces to pursue expansion of their influence over the Asian Pacific region.

In Australia there has been rising discussions about its position in the world and its promise to take on a larger role in the Asia Pacific region. Cooper and Mo (2013, 12) contend that Australia has historically thrived worldwide earning its status as a strong middle power. The nation has played various significant roles in world politics such as the peacekeeping mission in Cambodia in the period between 1989 and 1993. In the recent years, Australia took the initiative to enlarge the East Asia Summit to take in US and Russia. The country has also showed the capacity to handle regional diplomacy with ASEAN states as well as Pacific Island countries. Better coalition with other middle powers would be a way of declaring national interest at a period of insecurity and forming a network among like-minded states (Cooper and Mo 2013, 13). Considering the strengths of the country, Australia can work with another state to cover the weak areas and ensure enlargement of the nation’s political influence.

South Korea on the other side is growing into a significant middle power. While its development has occurred owing to aid through its association with the US, its spectacular economic growth has also put in an essential contribution. South Korea has taken up various roles in world politics such as hosting high-profile worldwide conventions, added to military forces and expansion support in Iraq and Afghanistan (Cooper and Mo 2013, 7). The nation has also taken part in peacekeeping missions and significantly supported region non-proliferation initiatives. South Korea has a strong culture of innovation and adequate human resources that enable the nation to take on available opportunities to develop. Even though current political instability may slow down growth in South Korea, development should be a priority to ensure expansion of the nation’s influence as a middle power. Better cooperation with Australia, a like-minded state, would enhance South Korean initiatives to extend its security welfare past the peninsula (Kim and Gilley 2014, 92).

According to Wilkins (2017, 112), the Australian-South Korea mutual relationship has a robust foundation. Individuals and institutional associations between Australia and South Korea are widespread. In 2011, approximately 90,000 Australian inhabitants declared Korean ancestry. In 2015, about 21,000 Korean students were pursuing their education in Australia full-time. Developing personal relations between nations has led to vibrant commercial connections. South Korea is Australia’s fourth leading trading associate while Australia is South Korea’s eighth biggest trading collaborator. With such a relationship the two countries have a better chance of creating better collaborations to expand their political and economic power in the Asian Pacific region.

Therefore, Halpern (2015, 44) emphasizes that developing a network of middle power is essential to curb the risks of a power void in Asia. As China carries on acting aggressively, North Korea assertively engages in nuclear weapon and missile capacities, and US-China dealings stay unsettled, middle powers have to find a manner in which they can protect their national welfares. In the case of South Korea and Australia, the best option is reinforcing associations with each other as well as states in the region and working together like conventional middle powers as the possibility of dispute grows. The utilization of ASEAN-based mutual organizations can enhance better relationships between the nations (Woodard 2017, 39).

Literature examining Australia and South Korea as middle powers concentrates on their status in joint forums and functions in guiding strategy initiatives. The literature, however, fails to effectively deliberate on the diplomatic capabilities on the nations to support a successful collaboration that would deal to development as well as how they can achieve these aims. Such a research would help establish whether Australia and South Korea can efficiently take up their positions as middle powers to work together and pursue development. Beeson and Higgot (2014, 217) state that Australian diplomatic setting has exceeded its limit and thus may need to work with another state to achieve growth in the face of diplomatic challenges. South Korea on the other side is a modern democracy that has a wide diplomatic network; however, without partnerships with a state like Australia, the nation may not be able to attain successful expansion of power in the region (Vio 2015, 137).

Theoretical Framework

This study will answer the research questions using various theoretical foundations. The idea of power is innately a realist notion, nevertheless, the concept of middle powers being able engage diplomatic activism to enhance global political environment is inherently liberal internationalist. A middle power may not be able to control other states, nevertheless, that does not mean the nation cannot form alliances that would expand the influence in the region. Without collaborations with like-minded nations, a middle power may not be able to hold its position for long and may lose control and significant over time (Onis and Kutlay 2017, 178). Ravenhill, through studies, explores Australia’s diplomatic involvement, noting transformations in government and economic crisis as well as changing national interests. South Korea over the same period has faces similar challenges and developments. As a result, it is vital to review whether the states are in a position to support each other through growth and identify factors that could enhance their relations. Therefore, using Ravenhill’s five characteristics of a middle power, the research will be able to determine whether South Korea and Australia five the definition of middle powers that are strong enough to collaborate and effect positive change.

Additionally, the soft balancing theory is also significant to the study. Soft balancing simply refers to the use of non-materialistic tools to curb aggression from other states (Long 2015, 124). In the modern day, there is a rising probability for conflict between China and US. Considering middle powers are in between superior and inferior states, it is their responsibility to support a balance of power. In the case that a conflict arises, a middle power on its own may not be able to facilitate safeguarding their security. The state would be too small and politically powerless in the face of disputes. Hence, middle powers need to unite and form a united front against any threats to the world security (Chaziza 2014, 249). Therefore, together, Australia and South Korea can improve their relations with China and find ways to prevent any assertive disputes that would affect other states.

Methods and Procedures

To meet the purpose of the research, this paper will offer a critical analysis of comparative case studies of South Korea’s and Australia’s capacity to stand as middle powers and work together to expand their influence in the region. The study will utilize hypothetic deduction and critical assessment using both qualitative and quantitative data. The study will focus on the works of different authors regarding the current state of South Korea and Australia in relation to world politics. In the interpretation of the findings, the study will simply weight the various points that the comparative case studies illustrate and put them together to come up with effective discussions. Using John Ravenhill’s five characteristics of a middle power and the soft balancing theory, the paper will come to conclusions that effectively answer the research questions.

Proposed Chapter Outline

Chapter One: Introduction- discusses the research problem and justification, sets out the research questions, discusses the background of the topic while focusing on main concepts including middle powers, diplomatic activism, and collaborations and why they are significant.

Chapter Two: Literature Review- looks at the theories of middle power and Ravenhill’s theory of five characteristics including capacity, concentration, coalition, creativity, and credibility. Discusses the soft balancing theory and its significance in the modern day political environment in relation to Australia and South Korea.

Chapter Three: Diplomatic Capacity and Concentration- Analyses the manner in which middle powers make use of their diplomatic abilities and resource pulling to develop their countries. The paper will focus on areas such as financing, staffing, location, and capacity of the nation’s diplomatic connections as well as what kinds of associations the countries can have to develop.

Chapter Four: Coalition-building and Credibility- concentrates on the modern day strategies and multilateral organizations that the nations are involved in and will offer a judgement of how countries will attain the objective of uniting to form influential powers in the world. This chapter examines the manner in which Australia and South Korea utilize their diplomatic connections to earn support for policy schemes and implement them.

Chapter 5: Soft Balancing- This chapter focuses on the soft balancing theory on how it applies to the current political environment. The paper will discuss on the rising tensions in Asia and the pacific Island owing to China and North Korea’s assertive tendencies. The research will also elaborate on the need for nations to safeguard their security and how they can ensure a balance of power by forming a united front.

Chapter 6- Conclusion- This chapter summarizes research findings and offers comprehensive answers to the research questions. From the material in the previous chapters the conclusion will prove the study’s argument.


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Chaziza, M., 2014. Soft Balancing Strategy in the Middle East Chinese and Russian Vetoes in the United Nations Security Council in the Syria Crisis. China Report, 50(3), pp. 243-258.

Cooper, A. F. And Mo, J., 2013. Middle Power Leadership and the Evolution of the G20. Global Summitry Journal, 1(1), pp.1-14.

Halpern, M., 2015. Politics of Social Change: In the Middle East and North Africa. Princeton University Press.

Jervis, R., 2017. Perception and misperception in international politics. Princeton University Press.

Kim, W., 2015. Rising China, pivotal middle power South Korea, and alliance transition theory. International Area Studies Review, 18(3), pp.251-265.

Kim, T. and Gilley, B., 2014. South Korea’s middle power response to the rise of China. Middle Powers and the rise of China, pp.84-103.

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Long, T., 2015. Soft Balancing in the Americas. International Security, 40 (1), pp.120-156.

Onis, Z. And Kutlay, M., 2017. The dynamics of emerging middle-power influence in regional and global governance: The paradoxical case of Turkey. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 71(2), pp. 164-183.

Scott, D., 2013. Australia as a Middle Power: Ambiguities of Role and Identity. Seton Hall J. Dipl. & Int’l Rel., 14, p.111.

Vio, J. G., 2015. South Korea’s Leadership in East Asia: A Middle Power Advancing Regionalism. In Asian Leadership and Policy and Governance (pp.129-157). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Wilkins, T., 2017. Australia and middle power approaches to Asia Pacific regionalism. Australian Journal of Political Science, 52(1), pp. 110-125.

Woodard. G., 2013. Middle Power Dreaming: Australia in World Affairs, 2006-2010.