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Middle power theory, change and continuity in the Asia-Pacific Bezglasnyy, Anton


This paper recalibrates the definition of ‘middle power’ and applies it to a comparative case study of Canadian and Australian foreign policies in the most dynamic region in the world, the Asia-Pacific. It is argued that the middle power concept remains a useful analytical tool in understanding the foreign policy behavior of states with a particular subset of material, institutional and identify characteristics. According to the refocused definition developed here, middle powers are states that possess all three of the following attributes: (i) medium sized material capabilities; (ii) perceive multilateralism and soft power as the optimal ways to maximize their foreign policy interests; and (iii) self identify as middle powers to domestic and international audiences. The particular value of the middle power concept advanced here, is the explanatory power it provides in the case of Canada and Australia in the contemporary Asia-Pacific: two states formerly classified as middle powers, possessing similar material capabilities, yet behaving in fundamentally different ways. This foreign policy divergence is accounted for by differences in ideational factors between the two states. Canada, it is argued, has socially deconstructed its own status as a middle power in the Asia-Pacific region, while Australia has bolstered its middle power identity.

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