AuthorRolfe, Jim
PositionBook review

Authors: Ralf Emmers and Sarah Teo

Published by: Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne, 2018, 228pp, A$69.99 (hb), A$49.99 (pb).

If the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must, the only group left for systematic examination is that of the 'inbetweeners', the 'middle powers'. Ralf Emmers and Sarah Teo, scholars based at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, have conducted that systematic examination for the Asia-Pacific region. In five substantive chapters with an introduction and conclusion they examine the concept of 'middle powerness' and delve more deeply into the practices of the four states they identify as regional middle powers. New Zealand is not one of those states.

Emmers and Teo focus on middle powers because large powers, rightly, have a lot of attention paid to them, while small powers can really only look after themselves, with minimal effect on the overall regional security environment. Middle powers, on the other hand, can affect events around themselves and can, thus, have a 'regional security strategy'.

The authors understand and discuss the problematic and contested nature of the 'middle power' concept at the centre of their analysis; indeed they suggest in the book's conclusion that there is room for more research on just this topic. Middle powers, they argue in the first chapter, derive their status from a mix of quantitative, identity, behavioural and impact categories, and there is considerable discussion in the book on these categories and what goes into them. For the purpose of this analysis Emmers and Teo focus most heavily on quantitative indicators and on identity factors. The quantitative indicators are the most detailed with seven measures across GDP GDP per capita, population, military expenditure and the like. Very usefully, in an appendix, the authors give all their data and country rankings in five-yearly increments from 1995 to 2015 with all countries ranked and summarised with either large, medium or small power characteristics. New Zealand is defined in 2015, alongside Singapore, as reaching middle-power status in three of the categories and small power status in four of them.

Identity is examined, inevitably, in a qualitative fashion. How do the countries define themselves and how do other countries see them? On these criteria, New Zealand is described as a middle power but without a consistent self-identity as such. Vietnam falls into the same category as...

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