A SYSTEMS THINKING APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING CHINESE FOREIGN POLICY
Sim, Beverly W.
Rothstein, Hy S.
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The foreign policy system of any state is complex and dynamic. Dynamic complexity arises because of multiple feedbacks, non-linearity, multiple interconnections and strong interactions, time delay, and the ability of the agents within the system to adapt. Although there is a tendency to rely on reductionist approaches to establish causal relationships, reductionist approaches tend to provide one-dimensional perspectives and are ill-suited for complex problems with multiple interrelated components. This thesis shows how adopting a systems thinking approach to examining the Chinese foreign policy system may result in a better understanding of the overall system and its specific subsystems. By converting the variables into a causal loop diagram (CLD), the policy-maker can consider developments through a more holistic perspective and gain insights on feedback, hidden interdependencies, and multiple interrelated components. The CLDs developed provide illustrations of the complex, multi-dimensional interactive effects of key variables that affect the foreign policy decision-making process in China. With the identification of reinforcing and balancing loops, the policy-maker can gain a better understanding of how system effects can ultimately have an impact on policy outcomes, and perhaps make better-informed decisions.
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