Balance of risk in the South China Sea
McCann, Adam M.
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Chinese military and diplomatic actions in the South China Sea (SCS) are often seen as risky and provocative to other nations in the region that could lead to wider conflict. International relations scholars and China specialists debate the significance and causes of Chinese behavior in the SCS and the relationship of this peripheral territory to China’s place in the international system. This thesis attempts to contribute to the debate by evaluating whether Chinese behavior in the SCS may be explained by the balance-of-risk theory developed by Jeffrey W. Taliaferro in Balancing Risks: Great Power Intervention in the Periphery. This theory utilizes defensive realism and prospect theory to explain decisions by leaders to engage in risky military and diplomatic actions in peripheral region. In Balancing Risks, which was published in 2004, Taliaferro argues leaders refuse to accept losses to their relative power and will continue to pursue risk acceptant strategies in order to maintain a perceived or real status quo. The questions asked by this thesis are: does Chinese behavior follow the balance-of-risk hypotheses? If so, what are the implications of balance-of-risk theory for our understanding of Chinese actions in the SCS? And, what does the balance-of-risk tell us about policy response during crisis?
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