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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Follow the Leader, Lose the Region

Charting a Canadian Strategy for the Asia-Pacific

This book argues that the Canadian government should think beyond a Western perspective when making Asian foreign policy decisions.

As the competition among the traditional great powers in the Asia region intensifies, Canada faces a stark choice: Should it align its foreign policy with the United States-led free and open Indo-Pacific strategy? Shared values and material ties give Canada a clear incentive to follow the lead of the United States and Western-aligned democracies in the region. However, there are other considerations to take into account.

Follow the Leader presents the case for the development of a foreign policy based on understanding how Asia sees itself rather than Western presumptions. Examining a range of key issues, it draws on Asian scholarship, leadership statements, polling, and media to demonstrate the Western misunderstanding of regional developments and to outline alternative, regionally-based perspectives on Asia’s contemporary dynamics.

This critical analysis urges the Canadian government to chart an independent policy, arguing that whatever Canada might gain from following its traditional allies, it equally stands to lose by aligning itself with a consortium of states committed to self-preservation over regional stability.

230 pages | 6 x 9

Asian Studies: General Asian Studies

Political Science: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations


"A sharp and original assessment of how Canada should understand and react to strategic developments in a region alternatively defined as Asia-Pacific or Indo-Pacific. From a critical theory perspective and using a wide array of sources in English and six Asian languages, it challenges the assumptions that underpin the dominant Western framing and illuminates the alternative narratives coming from within the region itself. Reeves’ prescriptions for omni-directional alignment and strategic integration offer a sophisticated perspective that will stimulate debate in both academic and policy circles at a moment of geopolitical turbulence and big choices."

Paul Evans, co-author of The Asia-Pacific Security Lexicon

"Follow the Leader, Lose the Region juxtaposes the narrative of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ with Asian narratives of themselves to critically situate Canadian foreign policy towards this important region. The book adds substantially to public debate and provides valuable insights that contribute to policy-making."

Jeremy Paltiel, professor, Political Science, Carleton University

"This will quickly become a go-to ‘guide for the perplexed’ – it challenges our understanding of Canadian-Asian relations. It is fascinating."

David Dewitt, professor emeritus, International Relations, York University

Table of Contents

Introduction: Framing a Canadian Strategy in the Asia-Pacific
1 The Basics: A Critical Examination of Western Narratives on Asia
2 Asian Counter-Narratives: Indo-Pacific, Rules-Based Order, and Freedom and Openness
3 Asian Counter-Narratives: Western State Identity in the Asia-Pacific
4 Asian Narratives on Asia’s Security Order: Western Hegemony as a Source of Instability
5 Chinese Counter-Narratives: The Chinese Communist Party, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Foreign Affairs
6 Mapping a Canadian Policy Approach to Asia: National Interests, Asian Narratives, and Network Analysis
Conclusion: Toward Omnidirectional Diplomacy and Strategic Integration
Notes; Selected Bibliography; Index

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