The US-China rivalry in South Asia and Pakistan’s hedging dilemma

Boni, Filippo (2021). The US-China rivalry in South Asia and Pakistan’s hedging dilemma. In Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Policy Briefs European University Institute.




China’s re-emergence as a great power, and the ensuing competition with the United States over the norms, rules and values underpinning the international order, has signalled the return of great power rivalry in global politics. Asia is at the very heart of these dynamics, as testified by the competing Belt and Road Initiative and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategies, with significant implications for Asian states that are learning how to navigate the US-China rivalry. Situating the analysis in the literature on hedging, this paper focuses on Pakistan’s «hedging dilemma», centred around the country’s bilateral relations with the US and China. Drawing on a range of archival material and interviews, the analysis shows that Pakistan’s hedging options are limited, as a result of two intertwined trends, namely the implementation of the Beijing-backed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the «flagship project» of the BRI, combined with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Washington’s recalibration towards competition with China.

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