Summary Statement of Current Research
I am currently working on two research projects as the principal investigator and two additional projects with colleagues from various institutions in the United States and in the Asia-Pacific region. The projects all relate to international security, with a particular focus on China, East and Southeast Asia, and U.S.-China relations.
South China Sea: The first project is on the South China Sea and seeks to explain how and why the maritime and territorial dispute festering in the region for over three decades has yet to develop into an interstate militarized dispute. In other words, to what extent is the region really "ripe for rivalry?" If sovereignty, resources, and power projection are central to each of the key claimant states, why then has war not broken out over the South China Sea? In taking a comparative assessment of the regional claims, I argue that even in one of the most anarchic security environments, there is a degree of restraint and reciprocity that underpin and explain the recent dynamics in the South China Sea.
Power, Status, and Socialization in Chinese Foreign Policy: My second research project considers why and how status-seeking states comply with international norms in multilateral security regimes and the conditions under which they are more or less likely to take on such self-constraining commitments. In particular, I argue that China’s quest for great power identity does not necessarily disrupt the status quo, as traditional balance of power theorists and power transition proponents claim. In fact, seeking social acceptance from its peers requires China to comply with established and universally accepted norms, rather than rejecting and overturning them. I identify and test the scope conditions under which Chinese decisionmakers’ exposure to global norms and engagement with foreign counterparts have evolved and ranged from strategic adaptation to an understanding that cooperative, multilateral security is a preferred source of state security, particularly in such security issues as UN peacekeeping operations and conventional arms and export controls.
Emerging U.S. Security Partnerships in Southeast Asia: In collaboration with Bates Gill (University of Sydney) and Evelyn Goh (Australia National University), this multi-year project looks at the U.S. "pivot" or "rebalancing" strategy to Asia from a new and different angle. In particular, the project examines how the newly-emerging U.S. security relations with Myanmar, Vietnam, and Indonesia are impacted by these Southeast Asian countries' long-standing ties with China. The project will involve in-depth and comparative field studies in Myanmar, Vietnam, and Indonesia and is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
The Rise of China, Taiwan Identity, and Cross-Strait Relations: This proejct will be carried out in collaboration with Patrick James (USC), Scott Gartner (Penn State), and Yitan Li (Seattle University). It will focus on the rise of China in connection with cross-Strait relations and the identity of Taiwan as a democracy. This project will be carried out in a multi-method approach, involving survey and lab experiments on identity and elite and focus-group interviews in Taipei.
Sunrise in the Big Red and a view of the Central Business District in Beijing.
Areas of Interest
international relations of East Asia, comparative politics, foreign policy analysis, China, Asia-Pacific, peacekeeping operations, and conventional arms and export controls