A Neoclassical Explanation of China's Role in the South China Sea

Rasmus Duus Hedengran & Alexander Schmidt Kondrup

Studenteropgave: Basisprojekt


The aim of this project was to examine to what extent China displays revisionist behavior in the South China Sea. The project examined this by using the theories of neoclassical realism and neorealism to determine if Chinese capabilities and foreign policy were consistent with that of a revisionist power. This approach allowed us to examine not only quantitative aspects such as capabilities, but also use the method of content analysis in order to provide an explanation of Chinese foreign policy through the analysis of official Chinese foreign policy documents. This approach facilitated the use of the balance of interest and bandwagoning for profit theories by Randall Schweller. By using this combination of methods and theories we were able to categorise China according to the balance of interest theory as a so-called lion state, displaying status quo behavior, but with limited revisionist aims. This conclusion was reached from the perspective of both the foreign policy and capabilities analysis, which revealed a strong Chinese state in terms of capabilities such as military and economy, but showed a more reluctant China when it came to how it formulated its foreign policy. The analysis of the foreign policy showed a China willing to defend what it perceived as Chinese sovereign territory, but with a reluctance to pursue these interest through aggressive means such as military action, but instead relying on a strategy denying unilateral resolution, opting for solving disputes individually through bilateral talks with involved parties.
This research allowed the the project to discuss future outcomes of the dispute. With the Philippines showing signs of bandwagoning behaviour towards China, and with the changing U.S. presidency, seemingly with a stricter line towards China, there is a significant risk of security competition, as the U.S. would seek to deter China from allying with its neighbouring states.
In conclusion the project reached its goal of arguing for a neoclassical approach to better understand to what extent China is a revisionist in the South China Sea, as the analysis of both structural and domestic aspects of the issue, highlighted important variables not visible through the exclusive use of neorealism.

UddannelserBasis - International Samfundsvidenskabelig Bacheloruddannelse, (Bachelor uddannelse) Basis
Udgivelsesdato20 dec. 2016
Antal sider47
VejledereSanne Brasch Kristensen