Emerging Powers and a Middle Power in Cyberspace: U.S.-China Competition and South Korea

Prof. Sangbae Kim

This article explores the rise of China and the upcoming hegemony competition between the United States and China, and further South Korea’s national strategies as a middle power in cyberspace as an emerging power space, usually called the leading sector in the 21st century. One of the biggest issues that represent the structural changes in world politics that South Korea faces in the early 21st century is the rise of China as an emerging power. The rise of China does not only mean the growth of national capabilities of a nation, but also implies the change of the East Asian regional structure due to the rise of China as a regional power and the possibility of hegemony competition with the United States at the global level. From a broader theoretical perspective, however, emerging powers have more complex implications. In particular, in the midst of U.S.-China competition in cyberspace as an emerging power space in the 21st century, the following three meanings should not be overlooked.
First, the rise of emerging power means the emergence of a new power actor, called “power diffusion.” In cyberspace, various non-state actors are emerging in addition to national actors. Second, the rise of emerging power means the emergence of a new power game, called “power transformation.” Beyond the simple aspect of traditional game for “resource powers,” the new power game pursuing technology, information and knowledge is currently rising in cyberspace. Finally, the rise of emerging power means the rise of a new power structure, called “power shift.” Competition in cyberspace is causing more than just a “power transition,” but entails a more complex transformation of power networks. Understanding the complex competition surrounding these emerging powers is an important task in analyzing and predicting the future of U.S.-China competition in the 21st century world politics. In this context, this article looks at the direction of the national strategy that South Korea as a middle power will take in the emerging power competition of cyberspace, played by the United States and China.