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China’s approach towards post-cold war multilateral arms control: development of integrative steps 1990-1996

This thesis is a study of China’s changing approach towards multilateral arms control since the end of the Cold War. In the wake of the end of the bipolar confrontation, China emerged as a major concern in the international arms control arena. It appeared that the nation lagged far behind the international momentum of post-Cold War multilateral arms control aspirations. Consequently, China came to be seen as less than cooperative in most of the on-going arms control processes. Yet over time, positive changes in Chinese arms control policy did occur, characterised by a series of integrative steps taken by Beijing. Through these integrative steps, China has been moving increasingly closer to accepting international norms in arms control. But so far there has been no major scholarship yet that addresses the above development in a more systematic manner. This thesis is an attempt to fill this gap. It proposes to examine systematically China’s approach to post-Cold War multilateral arms control issues. The primary purpose is to identify and explain the development of Chinese integrative steps. It examines the four most controversial issue areas in recent Chinese arms control policies, namely, China’s accession to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT); its participation in negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear test ban (CTBT); its ambivalence towards the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR); and its attitude towards confidence and security building measures (CSBMs) with regard to the South China Sea territorial disputes. The main research task in each case study is three-fold. First, it analyses China’s unilateral national interests and the various negative dynamics that were unfavourable to the development of the multilateral arms control regime concerned. Second, it examines Beijing’s subsequent approach and policy change which occurred during encounters with the main parties involved. In doing so, it will identify integrative steps made by Beijing and to assess whether there is any compromise in Beijing’s approach and policy change. And third, it explores the main reasons for the development of Beijing’s compromise (or the relative lack of it). Based on both published research material and interview fieldwork in China, it is argued that to varying degrees, Beijing has made compromises in its traditional independent and hard realpolitik state interests. It was by these compromises from Beijing that post-Cold War Chinese arms control policy has been significantly different even from that in the 1980s. It is also argued that there has been a combination of so-called domestic and external factors that have served to enlist compromise from Beijing. Among them, some are relatively stable, others are in flux. It is suggested that in analysing the likely cooperation from Beijing to a multilateral arms control issue, one would need to pay more attention to those relevant variables that are in constant change. A closing observation is offered on the likely movement of China’s future approach towards multilateral arms control.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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