The Evolution of China's Strategy Toward its Offshore Territorial Disputes, 1992-2014: Escalation, Conciliation, and Coalition Wedging
Abstract: This study traces the evolution of China's post-Cold War strategy
toward its offshore territorial conflicts with the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan. The
study examines the sources and objectives of China's strategy and the conditions under
which it has adopted an escalatory and a conciliatory posture. In particular, the work
seeks to explain why, given the prevailing understanding ... read moreof the People's Republic of
China's (PRC) grand strategy, Beijing has adopted what has appeared to be a decidedly
assertive posture in these disputes over the last number of years. In doing so, it has
exacerbated the security dilemma unfolding in East Asia between the PRC, on the one hand,
and its neighbors and the United States, on the other, generating regional instability and
providing pretext for Washington to deepen its regional alliances and security
partnerships. According to the literature on Chinese grand strategy, this is precisely the
kind of dynamic Beijing has been eager to avoid. China's strategy in the South and East
China seas, it is argued, has been informed less by factors narrowly circumscribed around
the territorial disputes themselves and more by broader strategic concerns - namely, the
perceived strength and orientation of U.S. alliances and regional alignments. It is
provocatively argued that in all three dyads, albeit at different times and in different
ways, China has adopted a coalition wedging strategy, aiming to use the conflicts to
prevent the formation of a U.S.-Vietnamese alliance and to weaken American alliances with
the Philippines and Japan. For most of the period examined, the escalatory extent of
China's conduct has varied inversely with the perceived strength and orientation of U.S.
alliances and security partnerships. Since 2010, however, as the alliances continued to
tighten and Beijing's ability to incur the associated costs and risks continued to improve,
China adopted an escalatory posture toward the Philippines and Japan as part of what has
been a strategy of coercive wedging.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: Robert Pfaltzgraff, Jr..
Committee: Toshi Yoshihara, and Richard Shultz.
Keywords: International relations, and Political science.read less
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