HOW DO SOUTHEAST ASIAN STATES RESPOND TO CHINA’S MILITARY RISE AND FORMATION OF A2/AD ZONES
Twomey, Christopher P.
Mabry, Tristan J.
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Southeast Asian states' relations with great powers have long been characterized as pursuing hedging strategies. These approaches have evolved within the region as an effective alternative to the more traditional balancing and bandwagoning policies. This thesis maintains that the hedging approach has only been possible due to the lack of power competition in the region. Moreover, the thesis asserts that China's transformation from solely an economic great power to a considerable military power erodes these hedging strategies today. This thesis shows that China's military rise and the formation of A2/AD zones have undermined the long-enjoyed regional primacy by the United States and have formed a basis for bipolar competition. This in turn has pushed Southeast Asian states to abandon their hedging policies and instead choose sides in great power competition by developing balancing or bandwagoning behaviors. Using a comparative case study, this thesis finds that during the past decade the Philippines and Vietnam initially shifted their respective hedging strategies to a balancing approach, but ultimately reversed their stances and are now bandwagoning with China, due to the lack of strong external support. The theoretical section of this thesis addresses the realist school of thought that provides the conceptual framework to explain the likely rationale behind these evolving response strategies.
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