This report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. Since Mao Zedong founded the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, it has fought in one major war and several skirmishes, and has frequently used military force in the form of coercive diplomacy. The pattern of China's use of force, however, has steadily declined over time. At the same time, China's domestic politics have reformed from allowing one person high amounts of consolidated policy-making power to more institutionalized consensus-based governance. Do the changes in domestic political structure have a pacifying effect on China's foreign policy? In other words, is it a cause of China's declining use of force? Through analyzing China's responses to the Korean War, the three Taiwan Strait Crises (1954-1955, 1958, and 1995-1996), and the period of cross-strait relations in 1999-2002, this thesis finds that China's reactions to similar types of threats have become more pacific over time, in part because of its shift to consensus-based governance, but that another major explaining factor is China's increased economic interdependence with the United States. The relationship that this thesis describes between China's domestic political-power consolidation and the aggressiveness of its foreign policy is especially relevant as the current leader of China, Xi Jinping, has more centralized political power than any PRC leader since Mao. American China watchers and policy makers should be cognizant to whether Xi accumulates more power, or shows signs of diverging from the institutionalized reforms, as it may have an effect on the PRC's foreign policy assertiveness.
Chapter II of the thesis is broken into two major sections. First it examines how the PRC decided to intervene in the Korean War. Then it will analyze why China initiated the 1954-1955 and 1958 Taiwan Strait Crises. Specifically, the chapter argues that Mao had an irreplaceable role in the decisions to join each conflict, especially the Korean War and 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis. Chapter III explores the PRC's decision to conduct the missile and amphibious exercises that created the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995-1996 as well as China's response to other periods of Taiwanese separatism such as the statements that Lee Teng-hui made in 1999 and during Chen Shui-bian's first presidency from 2000-2002.61 This chapter argues that the PRC's response to Taiwanese separatist rhetoric and actions in 1995-1996 and 1999-2002 were shaped by consensus governing restraining the policy preferences of hawkish elements within the CCP. In addition, the chapter argues that economic interdependence with the United States and Taiwan's trade dependence on the mainland both served to reduce China's likelihood to use military force. The conclusion briefly explores whether these dynamics hold up during Hu Jintao's era and discusses Xi Jinping's reign. Xi is consolidating personal political power to levels not seen since Mao, which suggests that China may become more assertive in its foreign policy. Understanding Xi's policy preferences will be important for American policy makers and strategists, as his predispositions will play a bigger role than his three predecessors' did. Some exploration into his theories on warfare and politics is probably worthwhile for additional study. However, since EI remains high and Taiwan continues to be economically bound to the PRC, the potential effect of his consolidated power on China's likelihood to use force may be tamped down by its deep trade ties with the United States and the world.