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U.S. China Policy in the Post-"9·11" Era (2001-2011)

Author: DengFan
Tutor: HuWei
School: Shanghai Jiaotong University
Course: Marxism in China
Keywords: cross-level analysis US China policy US-Sino relations
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2013
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The past decade since the “9·11” is a very special period that witnessed bothenormous transformations of U.S. security strategy and fundamental changes in theinternational system. The two (anti-terrorism) wars and one (financial) crisis haveprofoundly transformed the grand strategy of U.S. for its foreign relations, and reshapedthe scenarios of global geopolitics. All the researches over international relations of thispast decade cannot be effectively conducted without taking adequate and appropriatecontemplations on this historic thesis: how could coexistence be successfully achievedbetween a declining U.S. and a rising China in a changing international order?A proper handling of China and other potential big powers was once regarded as atop priority of U.S. national security strategy by George W. Bush administration duringits1stterm, but the sudden terrorist attack shifted the focus of U.S. grand strategy.However, China manifests itself again on the radar screen of Washington, this time as arising big power. The George W. Bush administration in its2ndterm and the Obamaadministration have become increasingly concentrated on the “tactical fault” of U.S.during the high tide of its anti-terrorism warfare, arguing that much importance shouldbe attached to their failure to effectively tackle the challenges posed by the rise of Chinaas a big power during that period, which should have been given grave concerns.Therefore, while terminating the previous stage of anti-terrorism warfare, Obamaadministration declares that it plans to make an overall shift of its strategic focus to theAsia-Pacific region. In this way,“the rising China” now lies in the center of thestrategic spectrum of U.S.Nevertheless, current China-U.S. relation is an outcome of a long term evolution, soits present condition is not similar to that of1990s, nor does it resemble the one of the“era of anti-terrorism” at the beginning of this new century. From George W. Bush toObama, the mainstream of U.S. strategic planners guided by a rational and positivementality accept the rise of China gradually, so their China policy reflects a kind ofconsistency and entirety throughout the whole decade after the “9·11”, no matter whichschool of thought is adopted as a guiding ideology of diplomacy for these consecutive presidencies. Bush administration’s policy of “hedge against all possibilities of China”and Obama administration’s policy of “overall balance” can be both classified into thecategory of “pragmatic realism”, which contains some active and positive initiativestranscending previous considerations, but is still strongly shaped by a majorcontradiction between a rising power and a hegemonic power advocating the status quo.In order to effectively handle its relation with China in the future, U.S. might integrateits China policy with a broader framework consisting of a variety of regional securityalliances, economic networks, and social links, and attempt to check China’s rise withthe international standards and the concept of big power’s responsibility. The majorfocuses of its China policy in the next5-10years might be put on the measures tooperate a competition against China in terms of both soft and hard power, includingsuch five categories: the consolidation of its military presence in Asia-Pacific region,the dominance in the agenda-setting of Asia-Pacific economy, the restoration to valuediplomacy, and the further arrangement for the rivalry of soft power.In the post-“9·11” era, the U.S. government once again emphasizes its presence inthe Asia-Pacific region although its defense expenditure has been largely reducedbecause of the shrinking American economy, demonstrating that it still regards theconsolidation of U.S. leadership as a leading objective of its foreign security strategy.Under such circumstances, the China-U.S. relation, a unique bilateral relation betweentwo major powers of the world, is attracting more and more attention. This dissertationargues that the western theory of power shift, which aims to explain the mechanism ofthe rise of big powers, cannot clarify all the features of China-U.S. relation in spite of itsnewly-opened windows of theoretic innovations, and that China and U.S. can jointlyconstruct a win-win pattern in the bilateral, regional, and global levels through adynamic mutual construction. Now what this bilateral relation really lacks is not someinnovative minds, but a mechanism of strategic stabilizer in the real sense. As a newtype of special big power relation to which very few historic references can be found,the China-U.S. relation is characterized by an extensive and outstanding set ofcooperative and competitive areas, as well as a rare coexistence of structuralcooperation and competition.(Scholars of international studies employ some specialterms, such as “complex interdependence” and “mutually assured destruction”, todescribe this special relation.) Both China and U.S. have strong wills to stabilize andexpand their bilateral relation, but fail to establish an overall strategic framework that isable to cover the interests of these two countries and realign their competitive relation. Theoretically speaking, the basic elements of an ideal framework for these twocountries shall include a mutual strategic trust, a mechanism of bilateral coordination,and a regime of international cooperation. Consisting of these three elements, such aframework might develop into a dynamic system of benign and mature interaction,which may evolve into a highly institutionalized and idealized model of China-U.S.relation.Combining theoretic elaboration with policy analysis, this dissertation conducts avertical review and a horizontal comparison over the China policy of the twoconsecutive U.S. presidencies since the breaking-out of “9·11”, and explores theinteractive structure of this bilateral relation through an observation of the patternchanges of power distribution in the regional and international system during this pastdecade, with a specification over the characteristics of the new type of cooperative andcompetitive China-U.S. relation on the bilateral, regional, and global levels. The authorargues that the China-U.S. bilateral relation has broken through the “quadrant ofconflict” and evolved to the stage of “coexistence”, which deserves a joint effort toestablish a win-win pattern. For the purpose of further improving the China-U.S.relation in the21stcentury, the author offers the following advice: reinforcement onbasic shaft of the China-U.S. strategic mutual trust, re-definition of the areas of interestsoverlapped by cooperation and competition, replenishing the connotation of themechanism of bilateral coordination with a strengthening of its resilience, as well as anjoint effort to reshape the system of international order that can accommodate this newtype of complex China-U.S. relation containing both cooperation and competition.In this dissertation, the author constructs several groups of mutually compared andcontrasted theoretic perspectives, from which the author not only surveys the wholeprocess of the making and implementation of U.S. China policy, but also clarifies thepositioning of U.S. strategy towards China in the overall framework of its grandstrategy in this post-“9·11” era. The author aims to illustrate the phenomena,characteristics, and trends of China-U.S. relation in the21stcentury, which is generallyviewed as a unique big power relation structured by both cooperation and competition,and to elaborate the mutually constructed endogenous connections between the complexChina-U.S. relation and the fluid international system after the “9·11”. As theinternational order is incrementally changing and another historic shift of the focus ofU.S. grand strategy is being conducted by Obama Administration, it is necessary to takean accurate understanding over the general mentality of U.S. for its diplomacy and the long term trends of its China policy, so that proper responding strategies, tactics, orpolicies can be made by Chinese policy makers for the purpose of creating andmaintaining a benign international environment for the rise of China.

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