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Authors: Khoa, Annie
Advisors: He, Yinan
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: In the mid-1990s to early 2000s, China was an enthusiastic supporter of regional multilateralism and active participant within ASEAN-centered institutions. In the late 2000s, however, Chinese strategic thinking underwent a dramatic change that suggested a shift away from regional multilateralism. This thesis examines China’s participation in these three most prominent ASEAN-led multilateral forums and seeks to explain the motivations for the dramatic shift in China’s strategic thinking in the late 2000s. It examines three cases of China’s multilateral engagement: 1) China’s decreased willingness to cooperate in its negotiations with ASEAN over the SCS and its increasingly assertive posture in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meetings, 2) China’s surprising prioritization of trilateral cooperation over its long-favored ASEAN Plus Three (APT) framework, and 3) China’s growing vindictive rhetoric towards the East Asia Summit (EAS). This thesis finds that there is a common thread of U.S. engagement in the region that has certainly influenced Chinese strategic thought, even within the APT (from which the U.S. is excluded). However, to say that the U.S. was the sole motivating factor at the very top of the Chinese leadership’s priorities is a false statement. In reality, recent changes in Chinese strategic thinking in ASEAN-led multilateral forums can be attributed to a combination of domestic factors, ambitions, and disappointments that have been sparked and intensified by the U.S. return to Asia. Each case demonstrated that different factors came into play, aside from the underlying U.S. role, so it is difficult to broadly generalize about a coherent Chinese strategy towards ASEAN as a whole. Numerous scholars and analysts that I interviewed, anonymously cited to protect their identities, have lamented that China does not possess a coherent regional strategy towards ASEAN, much less a coherent grand strategy. The common theme seems to be that whenever China’s envisioned shape of regionalism is threatened, then the Chinese leadership will have very little room to maneuver, given its domestic circumstances.
Extent: 139 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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