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Title: Conceptualizing Borders: A Case Study Analysis of Chinese Behavior in Frontier Disputes
Authors: Rodriguez Gallego, Kiara
Advisors: Truex, Rory
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Certificate Program: East Asian Studies Program
Class Year: 2019
Abstract: This thesis analyzed the variation in China’s behavior in frontier disputes and presented an explanation of the root causes of what leads China to decide to escalate or cooperate. The theoretical framework and empirical evidence presented in this thesis hypothesize that changing perception of territory divisibility is the main variable explaining why China has sought cooperation in some instances and used force in others. Divisibility perception was defined by four variables: military, cultural, political, and economic salience; the former two represent indivisible indicators and the latter two divisible. I hypothesize that changes in these four variables are the main causal mechanisms in determining China’s decision to use force, cooperate, or delay. Specifically, I hypothesize that increases in military and cultural value of territory would lead to escalation, and increases in political and economic value of territory would lead to cooperation. This thesis uses an in-depth process tracing case analysis on the Sino-Soviet dispute, and subsequently compares these results to precise instances of cooperation and escalation in Vietnam and India. Ultimately, the findings largely corroborated my hypotheses - albeit with one exception. The in-depth process tracing analysis of the Sino-Soviet case found that increase in cultural and military salience coupled with decrease in political and economic salience led to a perception that the territory was indivisible, confirming the escalation hypothesis. Similarly, in the cross-case comparison, the theory of changing divisibility perception also applied in the China-Vietnam clash of 1979 and in the China-India 1962 clash, confirming the escalation hypothesis. However, the escalation hypothesis failed to explain in some instances - two to be specific - why an increase in cultural salience did not lead to escalation, as it would have predicted. As mentioned, this depends on the combination of change in the divisibility indicators. On the other hand, the cooperation hypothesis was largely corroborated. The in-depth process tracing analysis of the Sino-Soviet case found that an increase in economic and political salience indicators coupled with a decrease in military salience led to cooperation. The cooperation hypothesis was further corroborated by the settlement with Vietnam and the failure to compromise with India. The Vietnam settlement talks further corroborated the cooperation hypothesis’ prediction that an increase in economic and political salience led to cooperation, and the no change in economic salience may explain why the India dispute did not resolve, thus also confirming the hypothesis.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2022
East Asian Studies Program, 2017-2020

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