Peaceful consensus: How China's changing governance structure has affected its use of military force
Jin, Sean J.
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Since Mao Zedong founded the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, it has fought in one major war and several skirmishes, and has frequently used military force in the form of coercive diplomacy. The pattern of China's use of force, however, has steadily declined over time. At the same time, China's domestic politics have reformed from allowing one person high amounts of consolidated policy-making power to more institutionalized consensus-based governance. Do the changes in domestic political structure have a pacifying effect on China's foreign policy? In other words, is it a cause of China's declining use of force? Through analyzing China's responses to the Korean War, the three Taiwan Strait Crises (1954–1955, 1958, and 1995–1996), and the period of cross-strait relations in 1999-2002, this thesis finds that China's reactions to similar types of threats have become more pacific over time, in part because of its shift to consensus-based governance, but that another major explaining factor is China's increased economic interdependence with the United States. The relationship that this thesis describes between China's domestic political-power consolidation and the aggressiveness of its foreign policy is especially relevant as the current leader of China, Xi Jinping, has more centralized political power than any PRC leader since Mao. American China watchers and policy makers should be cognizant to whether Xi accumulates more power, or shows signs of diverging from the institutionalized reforms, as it may have an effect on the PRC's foreign policy assertiveness.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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