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Peaceful Consensus: How China's Changing Governance Structure has Affected It's Use of Military Force

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[Technical Report, Master's Thesis]

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Since Mao Zedong founded the Peoples 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 Chinas use of force, however, has steadily declined over time. At the same time, Chinas 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 Chinas foreign policy In other words, is it a cause of Chinas declining use of force Through analyzing Chinas responses to the Korean War, the three Taiwan Strait Crises 19541955, 1958, and 19951996, and the period of cross-strait relations in 19992002, this thesis finds that Chinas 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 Chinas increased economic interdependence with the United States. The relationship that this thesis describes between Chinas 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 PRCs foreign policy assertiveness.


Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]