Small states and competing connectivity strategies: what explains Bangladesh’s success in relations with Asia’s major powers?

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Abstract

This article explores the consequences major power rivalries over connectivity investments have for small states in Asia and thereby contributes to a better understanding of small states’ strength and capabilities in an increasingly multipolar world. With reference to the literature on small states, field work, and interviews, the article explores Bangladesh’s remarkable success in reaping the benefits from relations with rivalling major powers over the past decade. Three explanatory factors stand out: first, Bangladesh’s ‘intrinsic’ value to major powers increased; second, its political leadership has been particularly adept in dealing with such major powers; and third, systemic factors–the number and kind of major powers with stakes in Bangladesh–has been beneficial. Thus, Bangladesh’s foreign policy responses suggest that the competitive nature of connectivity investments substantially improves the autonomy of recipient countries. Moreover, contrary to theoretical expectations, the intensification of major power rivalry so far has not constrained Bangladesh’s autonomy. Thus, the case study also exhibits infrastructure investments’ limitations as a power resource. Nonetheless, the potentially most beneficial cooperation schemes involving rivalling major powers have become less likely. Consequently, the case study dampens incipient hopes in turning competing connectivity schemes into major power positive-sum games.

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APA

Plagemann, J. (2022). Small states and competing connectivity strategies: what explains Bangladesh’s success in relations with Asia’s major powers? Pacific Review, 35(4), 736–764. https://doi.org/10.1080/09512748.2021.1908410

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