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  • Author: Alastair Iain Johnston
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Many scholars and policymakers in the United States accept the narrative that China is a revisionist state challenging the U.S.-dominated international liberal order. The narrative assumes that there is a singular liberal order and that it is obvious what constitutes a challenge to it. The concepts of order and challenge are, however, poorly operationalized. There are at least four plausible operationalizations of order, three of which are explicitly or implicitly embodied in the dominant narrative. These tend to assume, ahistorically, that U.S. interests and the content of the liberal order are almost identical. The fourth operationalization views order as an emergent property of the interaction of multiple state, substate, nonstate, and international actors. As a result, there are at least eight “issue-specific orders” (e.g., military, trade, information, and political development). Some of these China accepts; some it rejects; and some it is willing to live with. Given these multiple orders and varying levels of challenge, the narrative of a U.S.-dominated liberal international order being challenged by a revisionist China makes little conceptual or empirical sense. The findings point to the need to develop more generalizable ways of observing orders and compliance.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Hegemony, Military Affairs, Information Age, Liberal Order
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: Fiona S. Cunningham, M. Taylor Fravel
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Chinese views of nuclear escalation are key to assessing the potential for nuclear escalation in a crisis or armed conflict between the United States and China, but they have not been examined systematically. A review of original Chinese-language sources and interviews with members of China's strategic community suggest that China is skeptical that nuclear escalation could be controlled once nuclear weapons are used and, thus, leaders would be restrained from pursuing even limited use. These views are reflected in China's nuclear operational doctrine (which outlines plans for retaliatory strikes only and lacks any clear plans for limited nuclear use) and its force structure (which lacks tactical nuclear weapons). The long-standing decoupling of Chinese nuclear and conventional strategy, organizational biases within China's strategic community, and the availability of space, cyber, and conventional missile weapons as alternative sources of strategic leverage best explain Chinese views toward nuclear escalation. China's confidence that a U.S.-China conflict would not escalate to the use of nuclear weapons may hamper its ability to identify nuclear escalation risks in such a scenario. Meanwhile, U.S. scholars and policymakers emphasize the risk of inadvertent escalation in a conflict with China, but they are more confident than their Chinese counterparts that the use of nuclear weapons could remain limited. When combined, these contrasting views could create pressure for a U.S.-China conflict to escalate rapidly into an unlimited nuclear war.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, International Security, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: Elizabeth N. Saunders
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: When and how do domestic politics influence a state's nuclear choices? Recent scholarship on nuclear security develops many domestic-political explanations for different nuclear decisions. These explanations are partly the result of two welcome trends: first, scholars have expanded the nuclear timeline, examining state behavior before and after nuclear proliferation; and second, scholars have moved beyond blunt distinctions between democracies and autocracies to more fine-grained understandings of domestic constraints. But without linkages between them, new domestic-political findings could be dismissed as a laundry list of factors that do not explain significant variation in nuclear decisions. This review essay assesses recent research on domestic politics and nuclear security, and develops a framework that illuminates when and how domestic-political mechanisms are likely to affect nuclear choices. In contrast to most previous domestic arguments, many of the newer domestic-political mechanisms posited in the literature are in some way top-down; that is, they show leaders deliberately maintaining or loosening control over nuclear choices. Two dimensions govern the extent and nature of domestic-political influence on nuclear choices: the degree of threat uncertainty and the costs and benefits to leaders of expanding the circle of domestic actors involved in a nuclear decision. The framework developed in this review essay helps make sense of several cases explored in the recent nuclear security literature. It also has implications for understanding when and how domestic-political arguments might diverge from the predictions of security-based analyses.
  • Topic: Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, International Security, Domestic politics, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Iran, North Korea
  • Author: Ketian Zhang
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Since 1990, China has used coercion in its maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea, despite adverse implications for its image. China is curiously selective in its timing, targets, and tools of coercion: China rarely employs military coercion, and it does not coerce all countries that pose similar threats. An examination of newly available primary documents and hundreds of hours of interviews with Chinese officials to trace the decisionmaking processes behind China's use and nonuse of coercion reveals a new theory of when, why, and how China employs coercion against other states, especially in the South China Sea. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the findings show that China is a cautious bully that does not use coercion frequently. In addition, when China becomes stronger, it tends to use military coercion less often, choosing instead nonmilitary tools. Moreover, concerns with its reputation for resolve and with economic cost are critical elements of Chinese decisionmaking regarding the costs and benefits of coercing its neighbors. China often coerces one target to deter others—“killing the chicken to scare the monkey.” These findings have important implications for how scholars understand states' coercive strategies and the future of Chinese behavior in the region and beyond.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Territorial Disputes, Military Affairs, Maritime
  • Political Geography: China, Beijing, South China
  • Author: John J. Mearsheimer
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The liberal international order, erected after the Cold War, was crumbling by 2019. It was flawed from the start and thus destined to fail. The spread of liberal democracy around the globe—essential for building that order—faced strong resistance because of nationalism, which emphasizes self-determination. Some targeted states also resisted U.S. efforts to promote liberal democracy for security-related reasons. Additionally, problems arose because a liberal order calls for states to delegate substantial decisionmaking authority to international institutions and to allow refugees and immigrants to move easily across borders. Modern nation-states privilege sovereignty and national identity, however, which guarantees trouble when institutions become powerful and borders porous. Furthermore, the hyperglobalization that is integral to the liberal order creates economic problems among the lower and middle classes within the liberal democracies, fueling a backlash against that order. Finally, the liberal order accelerated China's rise, which helped transform the system from unipolar to multipolar. A liberal international order is possible only in unipolarity. The new multipolar world will feature three realist orders: a thin international order that facilitates cooperation, and two bounded orders—one dominated by China, the other by the United States—poised for waging security competition between them.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Relations Theory, Liberal Order
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe
  • Author: Charles L. Glaser
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Well before President Donald Trump began rhetorically attacking U.S. allies and the open international trading system, policy analysts worried about challenges to the liberal international order (LIO). A more fundamental issue, however, has received little attention: the analytic value of framing U.S. security in terms of the LIO. Systematic examination shows that this framing creates far more confusion than insight. Even worse, the LIO framing could lead the United States to adopt overly competitive policies and unnecessarily resist change in the face of China's growing power. The “LIO concept”—the logics that proponents identify as underpinning the LIO—is focused inward, leaving it ill equipped to address interactions between members of the LIO and states that lie outside the LIO. In addition, the LIO concept suffers theoretical flaws that further undermine its explanatory value. The behavior that the LIO concept claims to explain—including cooperation under anarchy, effective Western balancing against the Soviet Union, the Cold War peace, and the lack of balancing against the United States following the Cold War—is better explained by other theories, most importantly, defensive realism. Analysis of U.S. international policy would be improved by dropping the LIO terminology entirely and reframing analysis in terms of grand strategy.
  • Topic: International Relations, Grand Strategy, International Relations Theory, Liberal Order, Trump
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Eliza Gheorghe
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The evolution of the nuclear market explains why there are only nine members of the nuclear club, not twenty-five or more, as some analysts predicted. In the absence of a supplier cartel that can regulate nuclear transfers, the more suppliers there are, the more intense their competition will be, as they vie for market share. This commercial rivalry makes it easier for nuclear technology to spread, because buyers can play suppliers off against each other. The ensuing transfers help countries either acquire nuclear weapons or become hedgers. The great powers (China, Russia, and the United States) seek to thwart proliferation by limiting transfers and putting safeguards on potentially dangerous nuclear technologies. Their success depends on two structural factors: the global distribution of power and the intensity of the security rivalry among them. Thwarters are most likely to stem proliferation when the system is unipolar and least likely when it is multipolar. In bipolarity, their prospects fall somewhere in between. In addition, the more intense the rivalry among the great powers in bipolarity and multipolarity, the less effective they will be at curbing proliferation. Given the potential for intense security rivalry among today's great powers, the shift from unipolarity to multipolarity does not portend well for checking proliferation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation, International Relations Theory
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China
  • Author: Deborah Jordan Brooks, Stephen G. Brooks, Brian D. Greenhill, Mark L. Haas
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The world is experiencing a period of unprecedented demographic change. For the first time in human history, marked disparities in age structures exist across the globe. Around 40 percent of the world's population lives in countries with significant numbers of elderly citizens. In contrast, the majority of the world's people live in developing countries with very large numbers of young people as a proportion of the total population. Yet, demographically, most of the world's states with young populations are aging, and many are doing so quickly. This first-of-its kind systematic theoretical and empirical examination of how these demographic transitions influence the likelihood of interstate conflict shows that countries with a large number of young people as a proportion of the total population are the most prone to international conflict, whereas states with the oldest populations are the most peaceful. Although societal aging is likely to serve as a force for enhanced stability in most, and perhaps all, regions of the world over the long term, the road to a “demographic peace” is likely to be bumpy in many parts of the world in the short to medium term.
  • Topic: Demographics, War, International Security, Democracy, International Relations Theory
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Japan, China, Germany, Global Focus
  • Author: Andrea Gilli, Mauro Gilli
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Can countries easily imitate the United States' advanced weapon systems and thus erode its military-technological superiority? Scholarship in international relations theory generally assumes that rising states benefit from the “advantage of backwardness.” That is, by free riding on the research and technology of the most advanced countries, less developed states can allegedly close the military-technological gap with their rivals relatively easily and quickly. More recent works maintain that globalization, the emergence of dual-use components, and advances in communications have facilitated this process. This literature is built on shaky theoretical foundations, however, and its claims lack empirical support. In particular, it largely ignores one of the most important changes to have occurred in the realm of weapons development since the second industrial revolution: the exponential increase in the complexity of military technology. This increase in complexity has promoted a change in the system of production that has made the imitation and replication of the performance of state-of-the-art weapon systems harder—so much so as to offset the diffusing effects of globalization and advances in communications. An examination of the British-German naval rivalry (1890–1915) and China's efforts to imitate U.S. stealth fighters supports these findings.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Military Affairs, Cybersecurity, Information Age
  • Political Geography: Britain, United States, China, Germany
  • Author: G. John Ikenberry, Adam P. Liff
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In the post–Cold War period, scholars have considered the Asia Pacific to be ripe for military competition and conflict. Developments over the past decade have deepened these expectations. Across the region, rising military spending and efforts of various states to bolster their military capabilities appear to have created an increasingly volatile climate, along with potentially vicious cycles of mutual arming and rearming. In this context, claims that China's rapid economic growth and surging military spending are fomenting destabilizing arms races and security dilemmas are widespread. Such claims make for catchy headlines, yet they are rarely subject to rigorous empirical tests. Whether patterns of military competition in the Asia Pacific are in fact attributable to a security dilemma–based logic has important implications for international relations theory and foreign policy. The answer has direct consequences for how leaders can maximize the likelihood that peace and stability will prevail in this economically and strategically vital region. A systematic empirical test derived from influential theoretical scholarship on the security dilemma concept assesses the drivers of bilateral and multilateral frictions and military competition under way in the Asia Pacific. Security dilemma–driven competition appears to be an important contributor, yet the outcome is not structurally determined. Although this military competition could grow significantly in the near future, there are a number of available measures that could help to ameliorate or manage some of its worst aspects.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Cold War
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Sumit Ganguly
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide, Gary Bass convincingly argues that the Nixon administration did little to rein in its ally Pakistan from perpetuating genocide against its own population largely because of Islamabad's vital role in facilitating U.S. diplomatic contact with the People's Republic of China. He also shows how the low strategic significance of South Asia for much of the global community, combined with an inordinate regard for the norm of sovereignty, led to a lack of support for the principle of humanitarian intervention. The Blood Telegram partially affirms the proposition that acts of genocide can stem from the choices of a handful of individuals who are determined to achieve a political goal using all available means.
  • Topic: Genocide
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, China, South Asia
  • Author: Jon R. Lindsay
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The ubiquity and interconnectedness of computers in global commerce, civil society, and military affairs create crosscutting challenges for policy and conceptual confusion for theory. The challenges and confusion in cybersecurity are particularly acute in the case of China, which has one of the world's fastest growing internet economies and one of its most active cyber operations programs. In 2013 U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon singled out Chinese cyber intrusions as “not solely a national security concern or a concern of the U.S. government,” but also a major problem for firms suffering from “sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies . . . emanating from China on an unprecedented scale.” One U.S. congressman alleged that China has “established cyber war military units and laced the U.S. infrastructure with logic bombs.” He suggested that “America is under attack by digital bombs.” The discourse on China and cybersecurity routinely conflates issues as different as political censorship, unfair competition, assaults on infrastructure, and internet governance, even as all loom large for practical cyber policy. Although they involve similar information technologies, there is little reason to expect different political economic problems to obey the same strategic logic, nor should one necessarily expect China to enjoy relative advantage in all spheres.
  • Topic: Security
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Sebastian Rosato
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Can great powers reach confident conclusions about the intentions of their peers? The answer to this question has important implications for U.S. national security policy. According to one popular view, the United States and China are destined to compete unless they can figure out each other's designs. A recent Brookings Institution report warns that although “Beijing and Washington seek to build a constructive partnership for the long run,” they may be headed for trouble given their “mutual distrust of [the other's] long-term intentions.” Similarly, foreign policy experts James Steinberg and Michael O'Hanlon argue that “trust in both capitals...remains scarce, and the possibility of an accidental or even intentional conflict between the United States and China seems to be growing.” Reversing this logic, many analysts believe that U.S.-China relations may improve if the two sides clarify their intentions. Thus the Pentagon's latest strategic guidance document declares that if China wants to “avoid causing friction” in East Asia, then its military growth must be “accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions.” Meanwhile China scholars Andrew Nathan and Andrew Scobell recommend that even as the United States builds up its capabilities and alliances, it should “reassure Beijing that these moves are intended to create a balance of common interests rather than to threaten China.”
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Beijing
  • Author: Charles L. Glaser
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Despite the intense focus on China's rise, the United States has yet to confront the most challenging question posed by this power shift: Should it pursue a strategy of limited geopolitical accommodation to avoid conflict? U.S. policy continues to focus almost entirely on preserving the geopolitical status quo in Northeast Asia. Given the shifting power balance in Asia, however, there are strong theoretical rationales for considering whether significant changes to the status quo could increase U.S. security. A possibility designed to provide the benefits of accommodation while reducing its risks is a grand bargain in which the United States ends its commitment to defend Taiwan and, in turn, China peacefully resolves its maritime disputes in the South China and East China Seas and officially accepts the United States' long-term military security role in East Asia. In broad terms, the United States has three other options—unilateral accommodation, a concert of Asian powers, and the current U.S. rebalance to Asia. Unilateral accommodation and the rebalance have advantages that make the choice a close call, but all things considered, a grand bargain is currently the United States' best bet.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Cooperation, International Security, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: United States, China