Towards Strategic Pragmatism in Foreign Policy : Cases of United States of America, China and Singapore book cover
1st Edition

Towards Strategic Pragmatism in Foreign Policy
Cases of United States of America, China and Singapore

ISBN 9781032065403
Published November 1, 2021 by Routledge
170 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
SAVE $11.99
was $59.95
USD $47.96

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

What is pragmatism? Is it a means to an end, or an end in itself? Is it antithetical to ideology or morality?

Arguing that pragmatism is a skill much more than an attribute, Phua examines how viewing it in this way can help achieve better foreign policy outcomes. He examines and contrasts the ways in which the United States, China and Singapore have incorporated pragmatism into their approaches to foreign policy. In doing so he debunks dualistic myths around pragmatism and ideology and promotes the view of pragmatism as a skill that can be developed.

An essential primer for students, analysts and policymakers, with a fresh and practical approach to pragmatism.

Table of Contents

1. A Pragmatic Definition of Pragmatism (Problem Solving Approach) I. What is Pragmatism 2. Fitness Beats Truth: Towards a Definition of Pragmatism 3. Big P and Small P Pragmatism, Strategic Pragmatism and Grand Strategy 4. Agential and Structural Factors of (Pragmatic) Production 5. Pragmatism in Policy Process Framework 6. Varieties of Pragmatism II. China 7. The Dao of Pragmatism: Going With the Flow Without Being Swept Away 8. Seeking Truth from Facts 9. Red Lines (and Pink Lines) in Chinese Foreign Policy III. Singapore 10. The Ideology of Pragmatism 11. A Friend to Everybody and an Ally to None 12. The Geography of Pragmatism IV. The United States 13. The System (Systemic Pendulums) of Pragmatism 14. Small P and Big P Pragmatism on the Election Trail 15. How the Emergent Properties of the US System Force Unpragmatic Actors to Make V. What Have We Learnt? 16. From Varieties of Pragmatism: Muddling Through, In Style 17. Strategic and Systemic Pragmatism Through Dynamic Equilibria

View More



Dr Charles Chao Rong PHUA now runs Solaris Strategies Singapore (and Solaris Consortium of Management Consultancies) dedicated to pragmatically solving complex problems supporting governments, corporates and underserved nonprofits at sector and enterprise levels, after two decades in government, where he functioned as head research trainer in defence and chief external affairs supporting cities and infrastructural diplomacy. Charles also presides over Association for Public Affairs (Singapore) spearheading active citizenry in policymaking and serving as chief judge for Singapore Model Cabinet and Parliament organised by government.

He is an internationally certified management consultant and agile certified practitioner with doctorate in public policy, degrees in international relations, security management, education, accounting, law, and completed executive education in strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability, marketing from leading business schools: Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Berkeley, Babson, INSEAD, Cambridge, Oxford, London Business School.

He applies pragmatism in his adjunct teaching/coaching of applied problem-solving practicums in five universities/colleges in Singapore (National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, Civil Service College Singapore) and Switzerland (University of St Gallen), and has coedited Governing Cities: Asia’s Urban Transformation (Routledge). A Fulbright fellow, he was formerly resident fellow at Brookings Institution, Columbia and Johns Hopkins universities, and non-resident senior fellow at East-West Institute (New York). He currently serves as series editor for Routledge series for strategy, wisdom and skills with a commitment to codify practitioner+academic wisdom in applied and interdisciplinary fields.


"Early in the book, Charles Phua quoted Humpty Dumpty: When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less. Pragmatism is perhaps one such word. By discussing pragmatism in the context of how three very different countries view it - China, the US and Singapore - Phua has been able to develop a conceptual framework for the analysis of the word in academic discourse and distinguish between its use in social conversation and as an organizing principle in statecraft."---George Yeo, former Foreign Minister, Republic of Singapore

"Dr Charles Phua has written a book that uniquely considers how the philosophy of pragmatism, in both practice and principles, influences the exercise of foreign policy and statecraft in nations. In particular, he carefully examines the policies and approaches of China, the US and Singapore, and considers how each nation is shaped by a blend of idealism, realism and contextual opportunities and constraints. As we move towards a more complex geopolitical environment, Dr Phua’s book offers fascinating ideas on how nations mould their agendas, and fashion their policy formulations and implementations."---Professor Tan Eng Chye, President, National University of Singapore

"As the world changes, foreign policy must change. As this book makes clear, pragmatic foreign policy is needed to contend not just with politics narrowly understood but also with the full range of global challenges: economic, social, climate, and others."---Professor Craig Calhoun, University Professor of Social Sciences, Arizona State University, former president of London of School of Economics and Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC)

"A highly original and interesting book that compares and connects Chinese, Singaporean and American thinking on foreign policy. There is much food for thought for scholars and practitioners to ponder."---Professor Qin Yaqing, former President, Chinese Foreign Affairs University

"Is Singapore’s foreign policy based on realism, as many have claimed? Dr Phua is right to say it is not. It is based on pragmatism or a combination of realism and idealism in pragmatism."---Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-At-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore, and former President, Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea

"A well-analyzed book on pragmatism in foreign policy, a topic that has not received much attention in scholarly debates. The case studies are illuminating."---T.V. Paul, James McGill Professor of International Relations, McGill University, Canada, former President, International Studies Association, and author of: Restraining Great Powers: Soft Balancing from Empires to the Global Era (Yale University Press, 2018).

"Pragmatism" is a slippery term, touching on different domains of human behaviour - psychological, philosophical, social, political, economic, and others. Charles Chao Rong Phua's book takes an interdisciplinary approach to case studies - China, Singapore, the U.S. - in order to delineate the "system[s] that supports 'being pragmatic'" and thus provides the context for pragmatism in the contemporary global order."---Professor Robbie Goh, Provost, Singapore University of Social Sciences

"It is hard to do justice to the scholarly range of this challenging book which ranges from the mysteries of Daoism to the emerging properties of American decision making. The author rightly warns that we need strategic pragmatism more than ever - perhaps it is timely to recalibrate the pendulum swings between ‘strategic narcissism’ and 'strategic autism’ tendencies, both of which are threatening world peace."---Professor Christopher Coker, Director, LSE IDEAS

"Pragmatism has long been held up as a primary organising concept for policy-making. But what does pragmatism mean in the policy context? And how are we to understand its application in the process of policy formulation? By way of a comparative study of the United States, China, and Singapore, Charles Phua helps us navigate these complex conceptual and practical issues. This book should be essential reading for those interested in the fundamental philosophical underpinnings of “pragmatic” policy thinking and making."---Professor Joseph Chinyong Liow, Dean of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University

"This is an intriguing and systematic assessment of pragmatism as an element of foreign policy formulation and implementation in three very different states. The author draws out some important practical implications for policymakers from his study, and one can only agree with his concluding argument that future generations would benefit from pragmatic responses to complex global challenges such as managing climate-change and ensuring environmental sustainability."---Dr Tim Huxley, former Executive Director, IISS-Asia

"A must read for anyone seeking to understand how China’s "idiosyncratic mixture of principle and pragmatism" shapes its relations with the rest of the world."---Professor Carla P. Freeman, Executive Director, SAIS Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins University

"A solid contribution to the study of what the author calls strategic pragmatism in foreign policy, with the fascinating comparative illustrations of the United States, China, and Singapore. Insightful and thought provoking, while necessarily controversial in some points of the policies conducted by the three states."---Professor Shi Yinhong, Distinguished Professor of International Relations, Renmin University of China

"Charles has written a creative piece linking philosophy, public policy and international affairs. It isworth a read to examine its implications to our theory and practice of international affairs in both US and China."---Professor Wang Yizhou, Boya Chair Professor and Associate Dean, School of International Studies, Peking University

"By operationalizing pragmatism, a frequently used but vague and elusive term, Phua not only successfully develops a conceptual framework of foreign policy but also succinctly substantiates it by the foreign policy practice of China, the U.S., and Singapore in a way that will be useful to academics and practitioners alike. An original work on pragmatic foreign policy!"---Professor Zhang Qingmin, Chair, Department of Diplomacy, School of International Studies, Peking University

"This book seeks to be a synthetic primer on Pragmatism as applied in US, Chinese and Singaporean foreign policies. Moreover, Pragmatisms in the three countries are subtly different. This book not only helps us to understand current policies of the three countries, but it also constructs a theoretical framework of Pragmatism for foreign international politics in the world."---Professor Xufeng Zhu, Associate Dean, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University

"Towards Strategic Pragmatism in Foreign Policy crafts a unique and integrative approach, embodying both academic rigor and practical relevance in treating the role of pragmatism in political process. Charles Chao Rong Phua unfolds a paradigm for optimizing unstable equilibria amidst ever-shifting currents of public policy, national interest, international relations, and geostrategic positioning. He authoritatively reconciles variegated meanings and nuances of pragmatism, without contradiction, among three contrasting polities: China, USA, and Singapore. This original and illuminating work is highly recommended!"---Lou Marinoff, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy and Asian Studies, The City College of New York, founding President of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, and author of The Middle Way.

"Charles Chao Rong Phua offers an important corrective to the realist notion that international structure compels pragmatism in foreign policy. Through a close examination of Chinese, American and Singapore foreign policies, Phua establishes that pragmatic leaders necessarily act as realists simultaneously in both domestic politics and international politics and that pragmatism is filtered through leadership personalities. Foreign policy pragmatism may be the ideal of realists,, but it is illusive, except in the extreme. More generally, Phua shows that foreign policy tends toward a hybrid mix of the imperatives of personal politics and international politics."---Professor Robert S. Ross, Professor of Political Science at Boston College and Associate, John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University.