From Competition to Partnership: The Lessons of Anglo-American Cooperation in Central America during the 19th Century

By Michael Sampson

A response to this piece written by Jordan M. Sotudeh can be found here.

Abstract:No reasonable person would argue that in 50 years the relative position of the United States in East Asia will remain the same as it is today. In large part this is due to one factor: the growth in the power of the People’s Republic of China. The policy debate has consequently moved on from whether the United States needs to adapt to this emerging reality but rather how it does so. In the following article I point to lessons that may be learned from an historical example of two states competing for regional hegemony: Great Britain and the United States in Central America in the mid- 19th century. I argue that Britain, by abandoning its pretensions to a regional monopoly was able to peacefully secure a degree of restraint on the part of the rising power, the United States, and in so doing transformed a potentially volatile situation into one of constructive partnership which ultimately improved outcomes for both parties. I conclude by drawing out the policy implications for the United States from this historical precedent.

About the Author:Michael Sampson is a final year PhD candidate in International Relations at Balliol College, University of Oxford, and former Procter Fellow and Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. His research focuses on the strategic and distributional implications of international contracts. As a result he writes on Chinese trade contracts and the international political economy of East Asia more broadly. He has also written on 19th century Anglo-American diplomacy and published on cooperation theory with Oxford University Press. He holds a first class honors degree in politics from the University of Bristol and an MPhil in International Relations from the University of Oxford.

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