The pursuit of economic strength has stabilizing effects in the South China Sea
Gussenhoven, Michael A.
Malley, Michael S.
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Are Vietnam and the Philippines trending more toward conflict or cooperation with China over disputed territories and resource claims in the South China Sea? This thesis investigates realist and liberal international relations theories applied to three states involved in South China Sea disputes. It reviews the history of South China Sea disputes between China, Vietnam, and the Philippines since 1988 and reviews the states' growing economic interconnectedness to determine whether they have trended toward armed conflict or if economic interdependence has led the states toward cooperation to manage their overlapping claims. This thesis concludes that China, Vietnam, and the Philippines have trended neither toward armed conflict nor cooperation to manage their South China Sea territory and resource disputes. Despite increasing tensions over the competition for territory and resources, the states have managed their disputes peacefully and have avoided armed conflict since 1988. Furthermore, despite increasing asymmetric economic interdependence between the smaller states and China correlating to the period of relative peace in the South China Sea, the states have rarely cooperated with one another to manage their disputes. Asymmetric economic interdependence between the smaller states and China, however, has contributed to the relative peace in the South China Sea.
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