Power, perception and policymaking: the foreign policies of the US and the EU towards China

Brown, Scott Alexander William (2014) Power, perception and policymaking: the foreign policies of the US and the EU towards China. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3033625


China’s rise has put it on a trajectory to overtake the international system’s dominant powers – the United States of America (US) and the European Union (EU) – at some point this century. Some observers conclude that the historical pattern of such transitions catalysing great power conflict is likely to continue with China’s ascendancy. Power-transition theory (PTT) anticipates that the established powers will strive to maintain the status quo by extending their relative power advantage over the rising challenger and curtailing its power where possible. Yet the actual responses of the US and the EU have not conformed to these expectations; instead, they have both largely welcomed China’s rise and sought to integrate it into the international system. We can see that policymakers continually express interpretations of China’s rise which we would not expect to find if the logic of PTT prevailed. This raises a question: How have different interpretations of the ‘rise of China’ influenced the foreign policies of the US and the EU towards China?
I argue that varied perceptions of the implications of China’s rise have shaped policy preferences in ways that are inconsistent with concerns over the threat of an impending power-transition. Policy discourse at key junctures in bilateral relations revealed that ‘China’s rise’ is actually a contested notion and that the different interpretations in play at that point in time affect the policymaking process in ways that cannot be accounted for from state-centric perspectives. While China’s growing power and relations with these actors have been widely studied, little attention is paid to how competing interpretations of China’s rise impact upon policymakers’ preferences and the eventual responses. Despite the growing prevalence of threat rhetoric (at least in the US), China’s rise is often conceptualised by key policymakers as presenting considerable economic and political opportunities. In the EU, perceptions of economic and political opportunities have not been challenged by threat interpretations and thus its overall approach has been informed by the former with little substantive debate amongst key actors.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Foreign policy, Foreign Policy Analysis, International Relations, IR, China, PRC, United States, US, European Union, EU, Power Transition Theory, Arms Embargo
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: O'Driscoll, Dr. Cian and Young, Prof. Alasdair
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Mr Scott AW Brown
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5104
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2014 12:59
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2014 13:01
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/5104

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