Regional Responses to China's Geopolitical Assertiveness in Asia
4: Preservation of Autonomy: Diplomatic Procedures, Alliance Politics, U.S.-China Competition
Saturday, March 26, 2022
6:00pm – 7:30pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 316C
Princeton University, United States
When and how can the United States manage and strengthen its alliances amidst its peacetime competition with China? Alternatively, when and how can China weaken and paralyze rival alliances in peacetime? This project addresses these questions by examining the ways in which U.S. allies make key strategic choices when faced with competing pressures from Beijing and Washington. I introduce a concept of procedural autonomy—the degree of freedom that a state exercises in the process of reaching a strategic choice—and present a theory of procedural autonomy preservation. The theory posits that the degree to which the United States or China demonstrates sensitivity to a U.S. ally’s procedural autonomy alters the junior ally’s domestic political dynamics and critically shapes the ally’s strategic choices. To test this theory, this paper presents findings from one of the project’s case studies, which is on South Korea’s decision-making processes over the deployment of the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system from 2014 to 2017. Through process tracing, it explains the variation in Seoul’s postures towards the deployment of this controversial missile defense system.