How can the US and other states form accurate beliefs about the intentions of a rising China? Not only does the literature on China’s rise lack systematic criteria for inferring China’s intentions, but signaling during power shifts has also been dramatically undertheorized. This talk presents a novel theoretical framework for inferring the credibility of a rising state’s behavioral signals, and applies it to contemporary US-China relations. Most crucially, China’s behavioral signals are most credible when it faces low external constraints. This implies that there are unrecognized tradeoffs that undermine the current policy consensus in the literature on US-China relations: that the US should adopt some mix of positive inducements ("engagement") and deterrence ("containment") to constrain China’s behavior. Although these strategies induce China to behave cooperatively in the short-term, they increase its incentive to misrepresent its true aims, and thus increase US uncertainty about China's future intentions. The talk then introduces alternative US strategies that would remove constraints over China’s behavior and increase the credibility of its cooperative signals.
Dr Brandon Yoder
Centre for Asia and Globalisation
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy