- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Domestic Politics and Grand Strategy in Asia

Ashley J. Tellis


This chapter looks at domestic political developments in Asia and their implications for international relations and grand strategy in the region.

Main Argument

Nearly all the major countries of Asia are undergoing important domestic political transitions that are affecting their governments. At the same time globalization, modernization, and a changing global balance of power are transforming the international environment. Understanding how internal developments shape regime responses to this shifting external environment is essential to properly assess changing strategies in the region. Responding effectively to any of these developments will necessitate responding to the underlying domestic political factors that are driving state behavior.

Policy Implications

  • Economic change is driving the behavior of many critical Asian states, such as China, India, and Russia. Where maintaining economic success is a primary objective, grand strategies can in some ways be best understood as components of broader economic policies.
  • Internal political transformations are drivers of international behavior in some other Asian states, such as Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia. Where democratization has deepened, political leaders more responsive to popular opinion have emerged to chart more assertive security approaches.
  • The challenges of building institutions or arresting their decay dominate the agendas of still other Asian states, such as those in South and Central Asia. The informal social groups and militaries that control a growing share of political power in these countries define their grand strategies primarily in terms of maintaining regime survival and stability.
  • Changing domestic political factors are also relevant in the pursuit by Iran of nuclear weapons, the growing plausibility of an Asian regional security architecture, and the increasing challenges posed to Asian countries by regional environmental problems.