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Recasting sources of Chinese foreign policy

focusing on Hu Jintao's authority-building

Kim, Daria

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Abstract

The question of sources of Chinese assertive external behavior has been intensively studied by the realist scholars, who precipitate China's assertive foreign policy due to its rising capabilities and translation of economic power into military power. Yet, the structural realist perspective cannot explain why the foreign policy under Hu Jintao has experienced erratic changes, from keeping low profile to actively promoting cooperation and later acting assertively in core issues, in particular in the sale of arms to Taiwan and territorial disputes over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. I chose these cases because they have different outcomes which create unstable foreign policies and are easily examined when viewing through a longer time period. In fact, Chinese foreign policy goes hand-in-hand with each leader's attempts to build authority and create a legacy for which they themselves can survive politically. These generate an interesting and compelling research question for which I attempt to explain: What is the relationship between a leader's authority and the regime's fragility and Chinese foreign policy? I based my argument in diversionary hypothesis literature and intra-party politics. When the leader experiences insufficient authority, he uses diversionary methods and acts assertively, which helps the leader gain support from political elites and the masses. The leader's authority decreases during power transition, when the elites power struggles increases the regime fragility. When the leader has sufficient authority, he is capable of promoting his cooperative policy preferences. Overall, my analysis showcases how what may seem as an irrational and unpredictable scenario, is in actuality very certain when it comes to a leader's behavior because his actions are motivated by authority-building.
What are the sources of Chinese foreign policy under rule by the Chinese Communist Party? While realists posit an increasingly assertive Chinese foreign policy due to its rising capabilities, this perspective cannot explain why the foreign policy under Hu Jintao experienced wide-ranging changes, from keeping low profile to actively promoting cooperation and later acting assertively. Drawing from the literature on diversionary conflict and authoritarian intra-party politics, I argue that a communist leader's level of authority within the ruling party is an important factor in explaining Chinese foreign policy. When the regime head experiences insufficient authority, he has the incentive to use diversionary methods and act assertively, which helps the leader gain support from political elites and the masses. When the party chief has sufficient authority, he is capable of promoting cooperative policy preferences. The leader's authority decreases during power transition, when elite power struggles increase regime fragility. I test this argument on two core foreign policy issues during Hu's term: the sale of arms to Taiwan and territorial disputes over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. Overall, my analysis shows how authority is crucial to understanding leader's foreign policy behavior in China under communist party rule.

Advisors
Bae, Joonbum
Department
KDI School, Ph.D in Public Policy
Issue Date
2022
Publisher
KDI School
Description
Thesis(Doctoral) -- KDI School: Ph.D in Public Policy, 2022
Keywords
China--Foreign relations
Contents
Part I. The importance of studied issue
Part II Authority-building theoretical framework
Part III Case selection and methodology
Part IV. Case studies
Part V. Summary
Pages
95 p
URI
https://archives.kdischool.ac.kr/handle/11125/54077
Type
Dissertation
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