A Post-Liberal Indo-Pacific? Perspectives on the Future of the International Order

Tuesday 12 December 2023 / 08:30 - 10:00 / Zoom

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Did you miss this webinar? The full recording is available on ISDP’s YouTube channel.

Over the past years, the term “Indo-Pacific” has gained popularity as a mental map that builds upon the geography of the Asia-Pacific with an emerging convergence of military, strategic, and geopolitical considerations. Portrayed as the primary theater for the rise of authoritarianism, the Indo-Pacific is characterized by dynamic multipolarity in place of U.S.-led liberal hegemony. Beijing’s pursuit of greater military, economic, and diplomatic influence, preference for pragmatic rather than values-based policy approaches, and closer convergence with Russia and North Korea are factors that challenge the norms of liberal statecraft and multilateral institution-building that have prevailed since World War II. Faced with these challenges, the preexisting regional security architecture in the U.S.’ “hub-and-spoke” model struggles to promote peace and prosperity, and regional stakeholders are increasingly turning to voluntary and informal coalitions to navigate the tensions of U.S.-China strategic competition.  

One such attempt to foster collective resilience is the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, unveiled by the Biden administration in February 2022, which in framing local interests in a shared narrative seeks to forge a strategic network of democratic partners in the region. Several other actors, including the EU, South Korea, Japan, and India, have since adopted individual Indo-Pacific strategies. These strategies broadly agree on the importance of upholding the rules-based order amid China’s destabilizing conduct yet differ crucially on Beijing’s role in the vision for “common” prosperity. While the U.S. strategy presents states with a binary choice – to put all eggs in either the U.S. or the China basket – others, such as South Korea, identify the need for flexible arrangements that incorporate the convergence of requirements and interests in economic development and non-traditional security issues. Washington’s exclusive emphasis on democratic values and the expectation that allies will undertake comprehensive de-risking from China may prove out of touch with local realities, where forcing states to “choose sides” risks becoming counterproductive to progressing on common challenges, including climate change, water security, pandemics, and counterterrorism. 

Against this backdrop, ISDP and the Sejong Institute are glad to present this webinar, which aims to provide some perspectives on the future outlooks of the liberal order in the Indo-Pacific. The event will address the following questions:  

  • How do the Indo-Pacific strategies of the U.S., EU, India, South Korea, Japan etc., differ in their position on cooperating with non-liberal states in economic and non-traditional security issues? 
  • How can states manage different expectations of an “appropriate” extent of cooperation with illiberal states, and what may be some consequences of failing to do so? 
  • What are the implications of differing approaches toward China within various Indo-Pacific strategies, especially concerning economic collaboration, common security challenges, and the prospects for maintaining a rules-based order? 
  • Is it possible to combine values-based and pragmatic cooperation (or yet, to “de-securitize” economic issues as separate from security)? What are the possibilities of positive-sum Sino-U.S. cooperation?  
  • What are some possible benefits and drawbacks of structuring the Indo-Pacific security landscape around minilateral fora? Would ad hoc coalitions benefit from institutionalization? 
  • Given the current trajectory, what are the future outlooks for the liberal rules-based order as it is known today in the Indo-Pacific and worldwide?  


Mr. Gunnar Hökmark has several decades of experience working in democratic institutions in Sweden and the EU. Currently, Mr Hökmark serves as the Chairperson of the Stockholm Free World Forum (Frivärld) and was formerly a member of the European (2004-2019) and Swedish (1982-2004) parliaments and former Secretary of the Moderate Party (1991-2000). Over the course of his career, Mr Hökmark has engaged actively in economic affairs and issues related to financial and banking stability, digitalization, and political developments in the Baltic region.

Dr. Sungwon Lee is a Research Fellow at the Security Strategy Research Office at Sejong Institute. Previously, he worked as deputy editor of Korea on Point, a forum for debate under the Korean Association of International Studies, and as a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies’ Center of Foreign Affairs and Security. Dr Lee holds a PhD in International Politics from the University of Bath and his fields of research are Korean peninsula geopolitics, political transitions, and European security.

Dr. Barbara Kratiuk is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies, University of Warsaw, and an Associated Research Fellow at ISDP. She holds a PhD in International Relations and Far East studies from the University of Warsaw. In addition to her academic career, she has experience in diplomacy, having worked for the Polish embassies in Berlin and Singapore. Dr Kratiuk’s research interests are the distribution of power in international relations and colonial policies in the Indo-Pacific region.


The webinar will be moderated by Dr. Niklas Swanström, Director of the ISDP.