|dc.description.abstract||A systemic shift is occurring in international politics. The rise of China and the real possibility of a multipolar environment in the Asia-Pacific have reawakened structural sources of instability that lay dormant during the unipolar hegemony of the United States. A return to a multipolar environment in the Asia-Pacific threatens to accelerate an emerging power rivalry between the United States and China. This thesis predicts that if current strategies fail to account for the structure of the anarchic international order and the instability inherent therein, the future Sino-U.S. strategic dialogue will succumb to the same historical cycle of mutual misapprehension, distrust, insecurity and conflict that has plagued great power politics.
To illustrate how structural instability is negatively affecting regional strategies and force postures, the following chapters will present three hazards that are normally associated with great power politics and structural instability: security dilemmas, balance of power dynamics, and an overly optimistic belief in economic interdependence. Historical case studies are employed in each chapter to exhibit how the effects of a multipolar system and the larger anarchic international order have created instability and conflict throughout history. In each instance, historical parallels emerge between the case studies and the current environment of the Asia-Pacific. The research indicates the very real potential for regional instability as a structural byproduct of China’s rise and a shift in the geopolitical order towards a multipolar environment.
By highlighting the strategic calculus surrounding power politics and a state’s drive for security in a multipolar and anarchic environment, this thesis adds a much needed and often-overlooked dimension for deciphering why today’s great power dynamics and a rising China are surrounded by conflict and insecurity. It is not designed as a litmus test or to offer specific policy reforms. The object of this thesis is to highlight how age-old symptoms of structural instability have manifested themselves in the Asia-Pacific, especially in the nascent great power contest between the United States and China. The greatest value of this thesis is to remind policymakers that the nature of the international system still has a profound effect upon state behavior and strategic rationale. The hope is that by incorporating the analysis of previous great power conflicts and forewarning about structural pitfalls, modern strategy in the Asia-Pacific can avoid blithely following the same worn path rife with historical conflict.
Chapter Readers and Advisors:
Chapter II, Dr. Sarah O’Byrne
Chapter III, Dr. Jacob R. Straus
Chapter IV, Dr. Jennifer Bachner
Mark Stout, PhD