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Chung, "Domestic politics, international bargaining, and China's territorial sovereignty disputes," 1999

USC dissertation in International Relations.
August 24, 2009

Chien-Peng Chung, Ph.D

Abstract (Summary)

Robert Putnam's seminal work on "Two-Level Games" focused on the effect of domestic politics on diplomacy and vice-versa, by analyzing the challenges faced by statesmen/diplomats of one state in negotiating an agreement with their foreign counterparts, and submitting it for ratification by domestic constituents. I assessed the usefulness of Putnam's framework by focusing on the interaction between governments and their domestic nationalist groups, the role of institutions, and the strategies of negotiators, within the context of three territorial disputes involving the People's Republic of China. I explored and evaluated the circumstances under which political coalitions and preferences, economic priorities, historical memories, potentials for side payments, and institutional constraints on both state and society affect inter-state bargaining behaviour and state-society relations.

To test the validity of the propositions derived from this "Two-Level Game" framework, I employed as case studies the recurrent failure to start negotiations over the sovereignty of the disputed Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands claimed by China, Taiwan, and Japan, the recent success of China and Russia in settling their dispute over Zhenbao/Damansky and other islands lying on their boundary rivers, and border talks between China and India, which may be regarded neither as a complete failure nor a resounding success.

The success or failure to settle these three disputes is relevant for looking at the ways in which issues have been, or will be, exploited by domestic groups in countries engaging in territorial disputes to further their own objectives. They are also relevant for the study of attempts that have been, or should be, made by governments to play down the incidents in the interest of overall foreign relations, economic ties, and regional stability. I also briefly examined the roles that transnational and sub-national actors can possibly play in preventing or minimizing conflict in the current dispute over the South China Sea islands. I then concluded by making several observations about the psychological and cultural dimensions involved in the formulation and conduct of Chinese foreign policy with regard to territorial sovereignty disputes.

Advisor: Dekmejian, Richard Hriar