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Quasi-alliances, managing the rise of China, and domestic politics: the US-Japan-Australia trilateral 1991-2015

Hemmings, John (2017) Quasi-alliances, managing the rise of China, and domestic politics: the US-Japan-Australia trilateral 1991-2015. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.aqjuqxrdf9w9


This thesis examines how the United States reacted to changes in its external environment in the Asia Pacific after the Cold War; in particular, this paper examines the creation of the security trilaterals in what had been a traditionally bilateral alliance system and seeks to explain this through Washington’s complex relationship with the other great power in the region, China. American policy toward China has been marked by its policy complexity, in the sense that the US has seen China both as an important trade partner and a potential peer competitor. While many scholars have covered both alliance theory and US approaches toward China, this thesis seeks to explore both together, seeking to put American strategy in the region writ-large within an overarching neoclassical realist (NCR) framework. As a result, this thesis prioritizes power and the structure of the international system, while also maintaining that external variables alone are insufficient to explain the complex behavior exhibited by the United States at this time. It therefore draws from domestic variables introduced Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), and examines them through the NCR conceptions of ‘threat assessment’. This thesis identifies four intervening variables as crucial to understanding the evolution of US policy in the region from 1993 to 2015. These include policy-coalitions of foreign policy elites (FPEs), their perception of the structure of the international system, the domestic political conditions in which they labored, economic inter-dependency to China, and threat-assessment debates. Applying those five to the independent variable of China’s rise, this thesis argues that American foreign policy elites formed into two broad policy coalitions, who could not agree on whether to balance or to accommodate China’s rise. The quasi-nature of the trilateral, the failed attempt at a quadrilateral, and the off-and-on again nature of US-Japan-Australia alliance dynamics indicate that foreign policy elites inside all three states continue to debate China’s threat-assessmentstatus. Therefore, this thesis finds that at heart, hedging is the product of domestic variables, the inability of policy coalitions to triumph over their opposites.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 John Hemmings
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hughes, Christopher R.

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