Post-cold war geopolitics of Laos: Bandwagoning or balancing?

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Mainstream international relations theories commonly argue that weak nations besides powerful ones have no choice but bandwagoning. However, recent studies found that smaller nations are not necessary manipulated by the hegemonic powers. This case study of Laos supports the latter notion. Although Laos is a relatively less-developed country, it does not entirely rely on China to support its social and economic development. On the contrary, it is found that Thailand and Vietnam has great impact on Laos’ political economy including tourism, cross-border economic activities, investment in infrastructure and cultural relations. This dynamics does not only depend on the total strength of the states that Laos being interacted, but also the geopolitical strategy considered by Laos. Thus, this paper will illustrate the unique case of Laos to provide a critique of the conventional theories. First, it will analyse how Laos needed to be dependent to China during the early years of post-Cold War. The second part will critically review the interactions between the two countries in recent years; examine how much China does matter to Lao’s political economy of development, especially by comparing Laos’ relations with Thailand and Vietnam. This paper attempts to contribute to the Asian re-examination of conventional international relations theories, taking middle-ground approach to explore weak nations’ geopolitics between resistance and bandwagoning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


Law, K. Y. (2017, June). Post-cold war geopolitics of Laos: Bandwagoning or balancing?. Paper presented at the Asian Conference on Asian Studies 2017: Global Realities: Precarious Survival and Belonging, Art Center Kobe, Kobe, Japan.


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