Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro, Campion Hall (Assistant Professor of Security Studies, Georgetown University), is giving a talk at the Oxford China Centre, St Hugh’s College on 14 May 2015 (1st seminar at 1-2:30pm). The subject is: ‘How China Ends Wars (1950-1979): Implications for Contemporary Flashpoints’
How China Ends Wars (1950-1979): Implications for Contemporary Flashpoints
What factors determine how states try to end wars? This question is particularly relevant to China, as outstanding territorial disputes, strategic rivalries, and nationalist fervor create the possibility of armed conflict between Beijing and its neighbors. While scholarly research rightfully strives to figure out how to prevent war, untangling how to limit the duration and level of violence of wars that do break out deserves equal attention. Thus, this paper focuses a generally overlooked aspect of Chinese behavior - the strategies its leaders employed in the Korean War, Sino-Indian War, and the Sino-Vietnamese War in their attempts to bring these conflicts to a close. My analysis draws on score of Chinese-language sources, including archival sources, memoirs and authoritative government and military histories. I argue that Chinese leaders have historically exhibited three tendencies that obstruct timely conflict resolution: unwillingness to offer peace talks to stronger opponents, strategic preference for compellence over reassurance to encourage the opponent to compromise, and an overconfidence in the support and influence of third party actors. My findings add a new dimension to Chinese strategic culture and provide insights into contemporary Chinese military and security strategy by evaluating the conditions under which these past patterns are relevant to future action in the East China Sea, South China Sea and with respect to Taiwan. Additionally, I evaluate the extent to which these patterns are consistent with broader state behavior and their implications for the information and credible commitment approaches in the war termination literature.