The balance of vulnerability and the distribution of fear in East Asia
This dissertation examines East Asian reactions to the rise of China. More specifically, it seeks to address the question: ‘how can the distribution of fear in East Asia, which reflects a direct response to China’s rise, be explained?’ A realist theoretical explanation is advanced, highlighting the causal relationship between increasing asymmetric inter-state vulnerability and fear. Using a ‘crucial case’ approach, it is argued that in the face of the rising power of China, changes in economic dependence and the military balance are rendering nations more vulnerable, contributing to rising national fear (see Figure 2). If correct, this hypothesis represents a challenge to a range contemporary scholarship on East Asia, which holds that rising economic interdependence, identity construction and socialisation processes have substantially ameliorated fear in the region. At the same time, we seek to add greater sophistication to existing realist approaches on this general topic, which have focused on ‘capability’ as a monolithic variable. We attempt to do this by performing an in-depth analysis of the role of asymmetric vulnerability plays in East Asian state perceptions of China. This dissertation advances a material- based model of fear causation with national ‘vulnerability’ as an independent variable, and levels of regional fear (dependent variable). Through examination of the cases of Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, this study finds significant evidence that at least some regional states appear to be entering into reinforcing cycles of fear largely due to China’s military growth, as well as growing economic dependence, in contradiction with the expectations of liberal and constructivist scholars.
Advisor: Khoo, Nicholas
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Politics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Asia; China; Japan; fear; constructivism; East Asia; realism
Research Type: Thesis