Nav: Home

Having more allies may decrease a country's power

June 25, 2018

Researchers at Yale University have found that the more allies a country has, the less power it has. The authors say the findings have potential implications for current events.

The scientists published their results in the July issue of IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica (JAS), a joint publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Chinese Association of Automation (CAA).

The scientists developed a simple, yet sophisticated, computer game to examine relationships between countries and the resulting strategic environments.

"We have developed a power allocation game to study countries' strategic interactions in a complex environment," said Yuke Li from Yale University. Dr. Li and Prof. A. Stephen Morse, the Dudley Professor of distributed control and adaptive control in electrical engineering at Yale University, used the game to ask if having more allies in a networked, strategic environment will always be beneficial to a country in terms of power allocation outcomes. "The answer is, surprisingly, no. This is especially so for a country without sufficient power to mediate between the conflicts among its potential allies."

The researchers call their analysis a game on signed graphs, which is an emerging field in political science, according to Li. A graph becomes "signed" when each edge, or node, has a positive or negative sign. In Li and Morse's work, a positive node represents a friendly relationship, while a negative node translates to a non-friendly relationship.

"A signed graph can be used to describe a strategic environment in international relations, where cooperative and conflicting elements coexist," the authors said of the power-allocation game. "'Power allocation' [means] the need of the countries to be constantly and simultaneously engaged with direct missions related to multiple fronts in order to support any friend [or] oppose any foe to assure survival and success."

A country in the game must maintain equilibrium--it cannot extend friendship if it does not retain the resources to mediate conflicts between allies. More allies thus increases the country's responsibility to help mediate conflicts that may arise, which could overstretch and decrease the country's own overall welfare.

Li said that the findings allow for reasonable speculation on current events, including whether and how China should participate in the potential conflict between the United States and North Korea.

"Both North Korea and the United States are allies that China would like to maintain at least at some level," Li said. "However, given its current power status (especially with the number of American troops stationed in South Korea and other non-military consequences, such as trade), can China afford [to stand] in the middle of the road in this crisis?"

Next, Li and Morse expect to extend this line of research to predict the probable distribution of all possible power allocation outcomes for countries in hypothetical and in real conditions. Following this line of research, the scientists may be able to predict how China may benefit - or not - from taking one side or the other.

They also plan to study how changing policies can affect a country's equilibrium in short and long-term strategies.

"Ultimately, this research program seeks to combine methods from system sciences and research questions in political sciences,"Li said, calling this an expansion of the cybernetic approach - the science of communications and automatic control systems in both machines and living things. "Hopefully, the results will eventually be of assistance to the defense and diplomacy community."
Fulltext of the paper is available:

IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica was launched in 2014, it is a joint publication of the IEEE and the Chinese Association of Automation. JAS aims to publish high-quality, high-interest, far-reaching research achievements globally, and provide an international forum for the presentation of original ideas and recent results related to all aspects of automation.

Researchers (including globally highly cited scholars) from 164 institutes in 22 countries, such as NASA Ames Research Center, MIT, Yale University, Princeton University, and Chinese Academy of Sciences, select to share their research with a large audience through JAS. JAS has published special issues including IoT-based Smart and Complex Systems, Human-Centered Intelligent Robots, Control and Optimization in Renewable Energy Systems. More papers can be found at or

We are pleased to announce IEEE/CAA Journal Automatica Sinica (JAS) has its latest CiteScore as 3.18, which ranks it among top 18% (40/224) in the category of "Control and Systems Engineering", and top 19% (48/251, 32/168) both in the categories of "Information System" and "Artificial Intelligence". JAS has entered the 1st quantile (Q1) in all three categories it belongs to.

Chinese Association of Automation

Related Environment Articles:

How do fishes perceive their environment?
Fishes perceive changes in water currents caused by prey, conspecifics and predators using their lateral line.
A material inspired by a sea worm changes according to the environment
The gelatinous jaw of a sea worm, which becomes hard or flexible depending on the environment around it, has inspired researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a new material that can be applied to soft robotics.
When human illness rises, the environment suffers, too
A toxic environment is known to create health problems for people, but sick people can also create health problems for the environment.
Changes of the cell environment are associated with certain eye diseases
In case of ischemic injury to the retina, changes occur in the protein scaffold in the environment of retinal cells, the so-called extracellular matrix.
A Trump twist? Environment over economy in Michigan
Most Michigan residents would prefer policymakers prioritize the environment over economic growth, finds a new survey by Michigan State University researchers.
Tailor-made membranes for the environment
The combustion of fossil energy carriers in coal and gas power plants produces waste gases that are harmful to the environment.
Military environment
Military installations in the United States are home to a surprisingly large number of threatened and endangered species, leaving the Department of Defense (DoD) with the critical dual responsibilities of ensuring that it provides the finest military readiness training to American service members and also that it protects the species that call those facilities home.
Which cropping system is best for the environment?
Early sown winter wheat, where the straw is removed every second year and used in biorefining, is the best of six different cereal cropping systems with regard to total environmental impact.
Level of self-control linked to environment
Researchers discovered that people with neurotic personalities are more likely to restore their cognitive abilities in a frenetic, urban environment rather than in a peaceful, natural environment.
How does the environment affect obesity?
Researchers will be examining how agricultural and food processing practices may affect brown fat activity directly or indirectly.

Related Environment Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".