Can China Back Down? Crisis De-escalation in the Shadow of Popular Opposition Kai Quek, University of Hong Kong, and Alastair Iain Johnston, Harvard University

Many analysts argue that public opinion creates pressure on Chinese leaders to act coercively in territorial disputes, and that it also limits their options to de-escalate once crises have broken out. Evidence suggests, however, that Chinese leaders may prefer having more flexibility rather than less in a crisis. Using original data generated by a survey experiment conducted in China in 2015, this article examines several strategies that Chinese leaders could use to reduce public pressure so as to make concessions in a crisis easier. These strategies include pledging to use economic sanctions instead of force; invoking China's “peaceful identity”; citing the costs of conflict to China's development; accepting United Nations mediation; and backing down in the face of U.S. military threats. In all cases except one, approval for the leader increases over a baseline level of support for making concessions. The exception is if the leader backs down in the face of U.S. military threats. Here, approval drops below the baseline level of support, especially for nationalists and hawks. The findings suggest that if one assumes that Chinese leaders are constrained by public opinion, a U.S. cost-imposition strategy to compel China to back down in crises may have the opposite effect—tying Chinese leaders' hands even tighter.


Shifts in Warfare and Party Unity: Explaining China's Changes in Military Strategy M. Taylor Fravel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Since 1949, China has adopted nine national military strategies, known as “strategic guidelines.” The strategies adopted in 1956, 1980, and 1993 represent major changes in China's military strategy, or efforts by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to wage war in a new way. Shifts in the conduct of warfare in the international system offer one explanation for why China, a developing country for most of this period, pursued major change in its military strategy. Such shifts in the conduct of warfare should be especially powerful if a gap exists between a state's current strategy and the requirements of future warfare. The PLA has only been able to change strategy, however, when the Chinese Communist Party leadership is united and agrees on basic policies and the structure of authority. When the party is united, it delegates substantial responsibility for military affairs to the PLA leadership, which changes or adjusts military strategy in response to changes in China's security environment.


Archives and Inference: Documentary Evidence in Case Study Research and the Debate over U.S. Entry into World War II Christopher Darnton, Naval Postgraduate School

Did Franklin Delano Roosevelt escalate conflict with Japan and Germany before Pearl Harbor, or did he attempt to avoid war? To what extent did U.S. public opinion influence these decisions? And, crucially, how do we know? Scholars offer diametrically opposed analyses of this historical case, bearing directly on international relations theories regarding the effects of democracy on war and foreign policy. In this debate and the broader security studies field, scholars increasingly employ published and archival primary sources. Because researchers lack a clear template for descriptive and causal inference with documentary evidence, though, such work is indeterminate and ultimately unpersuasive. How can political scientists approach archives and primary documents more effectively and efficiently? Above all, case studies need stronger research designs and clearer source selection strategies, not just more authoritative documents. A critical review of the sources cited in recent scholarship in the debate leading to the United States' entry into World War II, and a replication analysis of a key portion of the documentary record, underscores this need for improved research design and buttresses eight guidelines for the selection and analysis of textual evidence in case study research.


How Civil Wars End: The International System, Norms, and the Role of External Actors Lise Morjé Howard and Alexandra Stark, both at Georgetown University

Historically, civil wars ended in one-sided victory. With the end of the Cold War, however, the very nature of how civil wars end shifted: wars became two times more likely to terminate in negotiated settlement than in victory. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the proportion of victories has increased, especially for civil wars that include a terrorist group; wars are also ending less frequently. Why would civil war termination vary by time period? The literature on civil wars looks to three basic types of causes: domestic-structural factors, bargaining dynamics, and types of international intervention. Current explanations cannot account for why civil wars would end differently in different time periods because, as Kenneth Waltz might say, they are “reductionist” in nature. Material and ideational factors constitute the international political environment, which varies in different time periods. This environment drives outside actors' normative strategies of viewing victory, negotiation, or stabilization as the appropriate solution to civil war. These norms, in turn, directly affect how civil wars end. A novel, three-part methodological approach using quantitative analysis, case studies, and original content analysis demonstrates that civil wars tend to end the way external actors think they ought to end.

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