Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 22:10 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 22:10 | SYDNEY

Hedging vs containment


Rory Medcalf


5 August 2008 15:35

Hedging is really just a euphemism for containment? I don’t think so.

In the debate about how to deal with a rising China, ‘containment’ has become a much misused word. Containment in its true Cold War sense was about thwarting a militarily and ideologically expansionist Soviet Union, including through a strategy to beggar its economy. Yet China, the US and most other Asia Pacific countries today have critical stakes in each other’s prosperity. Containment of China is not just a bad idea; it is not even an option.

The word ‘hedging’, on the other hand, has about it a useful ambiguity which should not be discarded. One can hedge, as in building a barrier of the herbaceous or figurative variety, or one can hedge, as in not risking everything on a single course of action. The behaviour of the US and some others in pursuing military capabilities and diplomatic strategies aimed at reducing the chances of China’s future weight becoming destabilisingly dominant is a case of the former, but it is also the latter, insofar as it is pursued in tandem with genuine efforts at engagement. A strategy of containment, on the other hand, cannot, by definition, be pursued in parallel with engagement.

Photo by Flickr user bishib70, used under a Creative Commons license.