From opposition to advocacy: China’s nonproliferation posture, 1963–2012
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From the early 1960s to the present, China’s nonproliferation policy has shifted from opposition to advocacy of the international nonproliferation regime. This shift represents a dramatic change in China’s foreign policy, and in a broader sense, in China’s relationship to the current international system. While the current literature observes this phenomenon and provides thorough documentation of it, powerful explanations are relatively limited. This dissertation offers a comprehensive examination of China’s nonproliferation perceptions, policies, and practices over the past 50 years (1963–2012) and provides a systematic explanation of the dramatic change. The project entails extensive archival research and fieldwork in China and the United States. The author conducted over 20 interviews with high-profile Chinese military officials, retired ambassadors, government officials, think tank scholars, and defense industry leaders, as well as a number of American governmental officials and nonproliferation experts. This research breaks down the evolution of China’s nonproliferation behavior into four phases, each of which has an outstanding feature. The sequence of the four phases is opposing nonproliferation, commitment nonproliferation, de jure nonproliferation, and good practice nonproliferation. China’s dramatic policy change in nonproliferation across the four phases consists of four incremental changes. Historical evidence reveals that China’s evolution of nonproliferation policy was passive and reactive to international expectations, especially to U.S. concerns. However, both theoretical and empirical analyses indicate that each of the four incremental changes was a rational move and the overall dramatic change is, in reality, a rational evolution. The project further develops a constrained rationality model to capture elements of Chinese political culture such as the ideological residue from China’s Maoist history as well as the lingering effects from China’s pre-development period, which have impeded China in acting on full rationality. This model is a new approach to analyzing China’s policy-making, and promotes a better understanding of Chinese security and foreign policy.