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Title: Hedging engagement : America's neoliberal strategy for managing China's rise in the post-Cold War era
Author: Riley, Joseph
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines America's post-Cold War relations with China in the context of the neoliberal vs. neorealist debate. It concludes that neorealism - the dominant school of thought in the international relations literature - is incapable of explaining America's response to China's rise in the post-Cold War era. Because America was the leading global power and China was its most obvious potential rival, a neorealist theory that prioritized the distribution of relative power would anticipate this relationship to be a most-likely case for American policymakers to pursue containment and prioritize relative gains. However, I leverage insights from more than 100 personal interviews to demonstrate that in reality American leaders have overwhelmingly preferred a strategy of neoliberal engagement with China that has remained decidedly positive-sum in nature. My explanation for this consistent, bipartisan preference is that American policymakers have not adopted the neorealist assumption that conflict is inevitable between existing and rising great powers. As a result, policymakers have not focused exclusively on how to minimize the relative costs of a potential conflict with China by trying to contain China's relative power and limit America' exposure to China (as they did with the Soviet Union in the Cold War). Instead, policymakers have subscribed to the neoliberal belief that conflict can be avoided, and that increasing engagement and interdependence is the best strategy to maintain peace. They have pursued this strategy despite acknowledging that engagement and interdependence have increased the costs of a potential conflict by helping to facilitate China's rise in both an absolute and relative sense, and by increasing America's exposure to China. This thesis helps to define the differences between hedging and containing strategies. It argues that while relative material power is often important in deciding whether to hedge or not hedge, these purely material calculations play no role in decisions of whether to pursue containment or engagement. Instead, the decision to contain or not hinges on the target state's behavior and what that reveals about the regime's underlying intentions. Within this new framework, I argue that American policymakers' strategy has been to engage China economically while simultaneously hedging militarily. Furthermore, to the extent that American policymakers have expressed increased concerns about China in recent years, this has been primarily a consequence of China's increased assertiveness - not changes in its relative power.
Supervisor: Snidal, Duncan Sponsor: Rhodes Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: United States--Foreign economic relations ; United States--Foreign relations--China ; China--Foreign relations--United States