Senior Honors Projects, 2020-current

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation





Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Department of Political Science


Yi Edward Yang

Hak-Seon Lee

Bernd Kaussler


During the 14th National Party Congress in 1992, Jiang Zemin declared that China would never seek alliances nor pursue hegemony. Indeed, since 1961, China has formed formal alliances with mutual defense clauses with only two countries: North Korea and the Soviet Union. Given the US’ alliance network, which extends deep into East Asia and Oceania, many scholars predict that China would seek similar security arrangements to deter potential aggression. However, very little research has been conducted to answer the question of why China has remained persistent in rejecting alliance formation as a viable strategy despite popular notions of increasing Chinese nationalism and assertiveness. As a first cut into this question, I argue through a qualitative case study of Chinese foreign relations that China's stratagem of using less formal partnerships to fulfill the role of formal alliances is driven by three motivations: 1) the structural conditions for alliance formation have not been met, 2) China prioritizes the strategic flexibility which partnerships provide over deeper commitments that would equalize its dyadic relationships, and 3) China is viewed as an undesirable ally among other states. As such, China’s partnerships function as a means of forming linkages with other states, exerting a limited degree of leverage, and imposing potential costs on states considering opposing core Chinese interests while maintaining a high degree of flexibility in their policy options.



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