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Economic interdependence: A deterrent to Sino-American armed conflict

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posted on 2021-11-14, 02:26 authored by Nguyen, Thi Bich Thuan

This thesis is devoted to examine the impact of economic interdependence on the interstate relations between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. Specifically, all three propositions emerging from the ongoing controversy over the economics-security nexus inclusive of “economic interdependence increases conflict”, “economic interdependence decreases conflict” and “economic interdependence is irrelevant to conflict” shall be tested in an empirical analysis of Sino-American relationship.  Three significant findings have emerged. Firstly, strong economic ties have actually caused tensions between Washington and Beijing. However, these issues of great disputes are not strong enough to turn into a Sino-American war because both countries have gained tremendous benefits from their strong economic ties and are not willing to destroy the economic ties that lock them together. Secondly, it is undeniable that economic interdependence has greatly promoted peace and stability between Washington and Beijing. However, there are three grounds for skepticism. To begin with, leaders always put security concerns over the prospects for economic loss, especially in times of insecurity and vulnerability. Furthermore, it is not yet certain that the linkages between the two sides in different areas can guarantee peace between the two countries. Also, there is a little historical evidence to believe that economic interdependence alone can bring lasting stability in the international order. Thirdly, the third proposition "economic interdependence is irrelevant to conflict” perfectly fits the Sino-American relationship. To start with, Washington and Beijing have used trade to maximize their national power not to suppress conflict. In addition, we should not limit the future of Sino-American relationship to the discussion of economic factors. Both sides have kept their relationship relatively stable not only because of strong economic ties but also other factors such as: the emergence of non-traditional threats and the mutual possession of nuclear weapons.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of International Relations

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

940304 Understanding International Relations

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Rolfe, Jim