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Yitan "A two-level analysis of foreign policy decision making: An empirical investigation of the case of China-Taiwan," 2008

USC Dissertation in International Relations.
August 3, 2009
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Yitan Li, Ph.D.
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is intended to provide some insights on the conditions under which domestic and international factors, respectively, play in foreign policy decision making. Using linkage politics (Rosenau, 1969) and diversionary theory (Coser, 1956) as the main theoretical framework, this dissertation examines the two-level foreign policy decision making processes through the case of China-Taiwan. Empirical evidence suggest that political leaders in Taiwan have incentives to use non-military forms of diversion--primarily verbal rhetoric on their respective positions of unification or independence with China, as a means of diverting attention away from Taiwan's domestic problems. This is a prime example of domestic determinants of foreign policy. At the same time, however, analysis through events data in the Taiwan Strait shows that the mainland China primarily makes its decisions toward Taiwan based on Taiwan's internal politics and Taiwan's political behaviors toward the mainland China, a prime instance of support for external determinants of foreign policy decision making. The events data analysis also reveals that the recent democratic transformation in Taiwan has made Taiwan's decision making a multi-level process. Domestic politics have become a main driving force behind Taiwan's foreign policy, including its policy toward the mainland. Nevertheless, the better understanding of the interplay of domestic and international politics must also take issues of cultural, historical and social significance into consideration. Changes of nationalism and political identity, resulted from the different social experiences formed by two distinctive types of political regime, cannot be ignored and must be taken into consideration when studying foreign policy decision making processes. Political elites in authoritarian regimes, such as China, must take the opinion and demand of the public seriously when they make foreign policy decisions, especially when the growing nationalism and changes of political identity could potentially threaten their political survival. Overall, the dissertation shows that, regardless of regime type, domestic factors play a relatively more important role in foreign policy decision making.

Advisor: James, Patrick
Committee members: English, Robert,  Lamy, Steven,  Cull, Nicholas

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