Worse Than a Monolith: Alliance Politics and Problems of Coercive Diplomacy in Asia

Princeton University Press
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In brute-force struggles for survival, such as the two World Wars, disorganization and divisions within an enemy alliance are to one's own advantage. However, most international security politics involve coercive diplomacy and negotiations short of all-out war. Worse Than a Monolith demonstrates that when states are engaged in coercive diplomacy--combining threats and assurances to influence the behavior of real or potential adversaries--divisions, rivalries, and lack of coordination within the opposing camp often make it more difficult to prevent the onset of conflict, to prevent existing conflicts from escalating, and to negotiate the end to those conflicts promptly. Focusing on relations between the Communist and anti-Communist alliances in Asia during the Cold War, Thomas Christensen explores how internal divisions and lack of cohesion in the two alliances complicated and undercut coercive diplomacy by sending confusing signals about strength, resolve, and intent. In the case of the Communist camp, internal mistrust and rivalries catalyzed the movement's aggressiveness in ways that we would not have expected from a more cohesive movement under Moscow's clear control.

Reviewing newly available archival material, Christensen examines the instability in relations across the Asian Cold War divide, and sheds new light on the Korean and Vietnam wars.

While recognizing clear differences between the Cold War and post-Cold War environments, he investigates how efforts to adjust burden-sharing roles among the United States and its Asian security partners have complicated U.S.-China security relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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About the author

Thomas J. Christensen is the William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War and Director of the China and the World Program at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. He is the author of Useful Adversaries (Princeton). From 2006-2008, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 14, 2011
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781400838813
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Asia / General
Political Science / History & Theory
Political Science / International Relations / General
Technology & Engineering / Military Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the Hardcover edition.
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Many see China as a rival superpower to the United States and imagine the country’s rise to be a threat to U.S. leadership in Asia and beyond. Thomas J. Christensen argues against this zero-sum vision. Instead, he describes a new paradigm in which the real challenge lies in dissuading China from regional aggression while encouraging the country to contribute to the global order. Drawing on decades of scholarship and experience as a senior diplomat, Christensen offers a compelling new assessment of U.S.-China relations that is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of the globalized world.

The China Challenge shows why China is nowhere near powerful enough to be considered a global “peer competitor” of the United States, but it is already strong enough to destabilize East Asia and to influence economic and political affairs worldwide. Despite China’s impressive achievements, the Chinese Communist Party faces enormous challenges. Christensen shows how nationalism and the threat of domestic instability influence the party’s decisions on issues like maritime sovereignty disputes, global financial management, control of the Internet, climate change, and policies toward Taiwan and Hong Kong.

China benefits enormously from the current global order and has no intention of overthrowing it; but that is not enough. China’s active cooperation is essential to global governance. Never before has a developing country like China been asked to contribute so much to ensure international stability. If China obstructs international efforts to confront nuclear proliferation, civil conflicts, financial instability, and climate change, those efforts will falter, but even if China merely declines to support such efforts, the problems will grow vastly more complicated.

Analyzing U.S.-China policy since the end of the Cold War, Christensen articulates a balanced strategic approach that explains why we should aim not to block China’s rise but rather to help shape its choices so as to deter regional aggression and encourage China’s active participation in international initiatives that benefit both nations.

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