The PLA and National Security Decisionmaking: Insights from China's Territorial and Maritime Disputes
Phillip Saunders and Andrew Scobell, eds., The PLA’s Role in National Security Policy-Making (Stanford: Stanford University Press, Forthcoming)
37 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2015 Last revised: 4 May 2016
Date Written: November 15, 2014
A central question in the study of China’s foreign policy is the role of the PLA in national security decisionmaking. This paper seeks to illuminate this question by examining one specific issue area, territorial disputes. The role of the PLA in decisionmaking in China’s territorial disputes has been limited to bureaucratic influence within existing policymaking structures and processes. With the partial exception of China’s interpretation of the rights of coastal states under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the PLA has not played a significant role influencing the initiation of China’s territorial disputes, in the content of these claims or in how China has chosen to defend these claims. Instead, China’s behavior in territorial disputes, including its recent assertiveness in the South China Sea and East China Sea, reflects the consensus of China’s top party leaders to respond to what are seen as challenges and provocations from other states. Little evidence exists to support the view that the PLA has escalated these disputes against the wishes of top leaders.
Keywords: China, foreign policy, national security, decisionmaking, military, PLA, territorial disputes
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