The concept of relational power in the international system is a key consideration for policymakers because it facilitates a clear understanding of the geopolitical position of states and their abilities to pursue foreign policy objectives. Rather than simply conceptualizing power as the sum of material capabilities, it is important to examine how relational power is exercised between states.
In joint report from the Pardee Center and the Atlantic Council on China-US Competition released in May 2021, authors Jonathan D. Moyer, Collin J. Meisel, Austin S. Matthews, David K. Bohl, and Mathew J. Burrows argue that relational power, or influence capacity, is the degree of multidimensional dependence that one state has on another, giving the partner state a certain capacity to leverage these linkages if the connections are asymmetrical. Although the capacity to use asymmetrical interdependencies in a coercive manner depends on the larger context, the more that one country is dependent on another country for its economic and political wellbeing, as well as its security, the greater the asymmetrical advantages of the dominant partner.
Building upon dyadic data across a number of interdependency domains, the authors have developed the Formal Bilateral Influence Capacity (FBIC) Index, which aims to quantify relational power between every pair of states from 1960 through 2020. In this report, they use the FBIC Index to explore how US policymakers might manage competition with China in Southeast Asia and offer a nuanced path forward that requires balancing the interests of partners and the use of their tools of statecraft.
The full report may be accessed here.
Beyond measuring US and Chinese influence capacity, the FBIC Index can be used to analyze changing influence capacity dynamics for more than 200 countries and between more than 20,000 country pairs from 1960 through 2020. Data include a summary measure of influence capacity as well as its primary components—bandwidth and dependence—and their political, economic, and security subcomponents. Data may be accessed here.
Event: Measuring Global Influence: China-US Competition in Southeast Asia and Emerging Powers in Africa
See here for a recording of the event.