Sources of security tension in the Asia-Pacific are cause for concern among regional partners Canada and Australia, according to the first report in a new series from The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

In Sources of Tension in the Asia-Pacific: Strategic Competition, Divided Regionalism and Non-Traditional Security Challenges, CIGI Research Fellow James Manicom says that “notwithstanding its status as the world’s most economically vibrant region, the Asia-Pacific confronts a number of strategic challenges that are the source of considerable uncertainty.” He identifies six key strategic tensions that pose serious policy challenges for Canada and Australia, including:

  • Concern over the rise of China, which relates to two issues: the pace of and lack of transparency in its military modernization and the perception that its pursuit of “core interests” could cause one of Asia’s many territorial flashpoints to escalate.
  • Uncertainties surrounding the capacity and will of the United States to remain the region’s hegemonic power.
  • Disputes over territory and maritime space such as the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, where the combination of oil, gas, minerals and fisheries stakes with assertive nationalism has hardened state postures — preventing accommodation between claimant states.
  • Competitive regionalism — in the form of rivalling Chinese and Japanese models as well as broader competition between Western-oriented pan-Pacific regionalism centred on the APEC forum and the ASEAN centred regional processes embodied by ASEAN+3, the East Asia Summit and associated meetings — that exacerbates existing regional tensions.
  • Unresolved Cold War sovereignty disputes — involving Taiwan, and the division of the Korean Peninsula — that further intensify relations in the region.
  • Non-traditional security challenges — such as energy and food insecurity, cyber security and climate catastrophes — that directly affect the interests of regional states.

“The new report, the first in CIGI-ASPI’s paper series, marks an important contribution to the study of the Asia-Pacific,” says CIGI Distinguished Fellow Len Edwards, who co-leads a joint-project with Peter Jennings of ASPI. “The region’s economic, political and security significance will play an increasingly important role in global governance and it will be critical for Canada and Australia, as like minded-countries, to coordinate and build a stronger relationship in order to engage appropriately.”

Sources of Tension in the Asia-Pacific: Strategic Competition, Divided Regionalism and Non-Traditional Security Challenges is published as part of the CIGI-ASPI paper series “Australia-Canada Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.” The opinions expressed in the report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or ASPI. To download a free PDF copy, visit:


James Manicom joined CIGI as a research fellow in August 2012. He is an expert in East Asia, the Arctic and global security, with a specialty in maritime issues. James holds a B.A. in international relations from Mount Allison University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in international relations from Flinders University in Australia.

Kevin Dias, Communications Specialist, CIGI
Tel: 519.885.2444, ext. 7238, Email: [email protected]

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, then co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit


The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.
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