Awaiting a Spark: How Three Chinese Territorial Disputes Could Jeopardize Peace in Asia   [open pdf - 456KB]

From the thesis abstract: "The rapid growth and modernization of China's economic, political, and military strength over the past two decades has inspired growing acrimony and concern in the United States. Washington strongly desires the continued peace and stability in Asia, and China's subsequent rise may eventually threaten American interests in the Pacific. Furthermore, China's various territorial disputes could upset regional stability, and as China grows stronger, it may decide to use its increasing military strength to push for resolutions to the disputes in China's favor. The question remains: how likely is China to use force to solve its territorial disputes and, should China use force, will the United States ultimately be drawn into the conflict? Case studies that involve three of the most potentially volatile of China's territorial disputes in Central Asia, India, and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands seem to suggest that war is not inevitable, and that historically China has very rarely gone to war to resolve a territorial dispute. Ultimately, historical analysis suggests that China prefers to maintain its territorial disputes so they can be used in diplomatic negotiations as bargaining pieces, and that China has only gone to war when it has lost all bargaining power. Therefore, the current situation, wherein China seemingly has increased its bargaining leverage as its military power has grown, seems to suggest that for the near term, war is highly unlikely."

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