Authoritarian Resurgence: Power, Politics and the Making of Foreign Policy in Russia and China
Abstract: A quarter-century after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, leading authoritarian regimes are reasserting influence in their regions and are progressing from consolidating power within their borders to projecting power beyond them. Nowhere is this trend more evident, or important, than in contemporary Russia and China - the world's two most powerful authorit... read morearian states. Instrumental in this success has been their adaptation to globalization and modern technology - phenomena once thought of as destabilizing for autocrats - by employing advanced tools of monitoring and censorship to maintain control over their domestic populations. Concurrently, Russia and China throughout the twenty-first century represent two cases of great power authoritarian regimes that are developing more assertive foreign policies and military strategies in their respective regions. In practice, Russia continues to destabilize and interfere in Ukraine and the near abroad while China has proven more aggressive over its territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. What is less understood, however, are the linkages between heightened authoritarianism at home and the propensity to pursue revisionist foreign policies. The question remains: what are the connections, if any, between these domestic and foreign policy trends? The primary argument of this research is that there are internal dynamics within Russia and China that are influencing their foreign policy preferences, objectives, and ultimately, behavior. For these authoritarian regimes, the domestic and foreign domains are inextricably linked: internal consolidations of power and assertive foreign policy strategies are needed to achieve stability at home, as well as the legitimacy of great powers in the international system. While political survival is the objective of all regimes, both democratic and authoritarian, domestic stability and regime security are critical elements of authoritarian political orders. Insecurity among regime elites and insiders is felt in markedly different ways than those in democratic systems, as being removed from power might entail not only losing political power but also material wealth and personal freedom. Importantly, this insecurity affects foreign policy in that it makes autocratic political actors wary of external influences that seek to destabilize their internal orders and leads them to take steps that maximize their legitimacy and power - at home and abroad. While empirical evidence shows that authoritarian systems are not inherently more warlike, this research develops more nuanced categories and theories that link Russia and China's domestic conditions to their foreign policies, with the goal of ascertaining the specific facets of authoritarian control that are most detrimental to peace and stability. Specifically, this research assesses the influence on foreign policy of domestic variables including the emergence of nationalist individuals and groups, their consolidation of control across political institutions and processes, and the existence of powerful challenges to regime legitimacy. This research applies process tracing and congruence methodology to a series of in-depth case studies that cover Russian and Chinese domestic politics and foreign policy between 2000 and 2017. Each case study seeks to illustrates the interaction of factors behind the pursuit of revisionist foreign policy strategies. Ultimately, the aim is to build greater understanding of why, how, and to what extent Russia and China are pushing the boundaries of their regional orders in efforts to build "spheres of influence," and what these developments mean for the shaping and conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Russia and China's trajectories - internally and externally - have the power to either enforce or destabilize the liberal international order. Conflict and war are not inevitable, but we cannot avoid what we do not understand.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2018.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: Richard Shultz.
Committee: Robert Pfaltzgraff, and Nicholas Burns.
Keyword: International relations.read less