'Why China is Content to Stay at Home': Internal Ethnic Diversity and the Propensity to Engage in Interstate Conflict

30 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013

See all articles by Eric Kaufmann

Eric Kaufmann

Birkbeck College, University of London

Date Written: 2013


This paper argues that more ethnically fractionalized states such as Iran or the United States, once they pacify internal divisions and become established polities, are more likely to be involved in power projection and international disputes. The converse is that ethnically homogeneous states such as China are less likely to project themselves abroad. Theoretically, we surmise that both realist postulates about the need for internally divided states to deploy chauvinist nationalism to gain legitimacy and symbolist arguments about diverse societies necessarily turning to missionary nationalism obtain. Related arguments about dominant minorities such as Syria's Alawis advocating legitimating expansionist ideologies like pan-Arabism or ethnic nationalists resisting territorial expansion for fear of ethnic dilution offer compatible frameworks of analysis. Analysis uses the MID and Kosimo dyadic datasets to assess the hypothesis that ethnic fractionalization in a state is associated with an enhanced risk of taking part in interstate conflict. It finds that the interaction between a state's ethnic fractionalization index and its age (a measure of how well established a state is) is positively associated with interstate conflict in both datasets. Most of today's rising powers, such as China, are established but relatively ethnically homogeneous states. As such, they are unlikely, from this research, to need to pursue interventionist foreign policies to find identity and legitimacy.

Suggested Citation

Kaufmann, Eric, 'Why China is Content to Stay at Home': Internal Ethnic Diversity and the Propensity to Engage in Interstate Conflict (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper; American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2299868

Eric Kaufmann (Contact Author)

Birkbeck College, University of London ( email )

Malet Street
London, WC1E 7HX
United Kingdom

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