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date: 23 October 2018

Summary and Keywords

The assessment of an opponent as a strategic rival is analytically equivalent to evaluating its strategic image. The central decision-makers of states reevaluate the image of other regional states and the great powers of the system in response to strategic shocks, as they have an impact on interstate interaction capacity. Interaction capacity in the international system can be affected by three types of changes—military, political, and economic. A strategic rivalry is a process that initiates when the central decision-makers of at least one state in a dyad ascribe the image of an enemy to the other as a consequence of such shocks. It is important to empirically demonstrate the ascription of these images through a cognitive process because strategic rivalries are a function of decision-maker perceptions by definition. Four types of enemy images are identified here—expansionist states, which are territorially revisionist; hegemonic states, which circumscribe a given state’s foreign policy choices; imperial states, which intervene in a given state’s domestic affairs in addition to being hegemonic; and peer-competitors, who pose latent and/or long-term threats. Once formed, these images are sustained over long periods of time and change only slowly in response to additional strategic shocks. These images also inform the strategy that a given state pursues toward its rival.

Keywords: strategic rivalry, rivalry onset, strategic image, strategic shock, expansionist state, hegemonic state, imperial state, peer state, empirical international relations theory

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