This Special Issue aims to explain the transition from the Cold War US-led system of exclusive bilateral alliances in East Asia (or “hub-and-spokes” system) into a “networked security architecture”, i.e. a network of interwoven bilateral, minilateral and multilateral defence arrangements between the US and its regional allies and partners, and that also partly includes China. Drawing from the English School of International Relations, it challenges dominant Structural Realist explanations which interpret such development as a form of external balancing against a revisionist China. By contrast, this Special Issue submits that China’s selective contestation of the US-led hegemonic order in East Asia has sparked a renegotiation of such order among regional powers, which has resulted in the restructuring of the underlying alliances and defence partnerships into a networked security architecture. Specifically, regional powers have sought to broaden the composition of the US-led hegemonic order in East Asia—by diversifying the range of defence ties between US allies and partners, but also by seeking to include the PRC in it. Thereby, rather than merely balancing the People’s Republic of China, they have sought to channel the trajectory of China’s rise within this hegemonic order through a mixture of resistance and accommodation.