Rising Revisionist? China's Relations with the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa in the post-Cold War Era Open Access
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Is China a revisionist, aggressive rising power seeking world hegemony or is it a status-quo oriented, cooperative member of international society? Scholars of international relations and Chinese foreign policy produce diverse and contradictory responses to this question. Offensive realism and power transition theory provide disturbing, conflict-laden predictions regarding the consequences of a revisionist China's rise. Various strands of liberalism and constructivism paint a more optimistic picture of a status-quo oriented rising China learning to cooperate through its interactions in the international system. This dissertation contributes to these discourses regarding what type of rising power China is by examining China's relations with the Middle East (including North Africa) and Sub-Saharan Africa in the post-Cold War era.Based on fourteen months of field research in China, Egypt, and South Africa (including approximately one hundred interviews with government officials, scholars, and economic actors), this dissertation analyzes China's behavior towards the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa regionally (e.g. political relations, economic relations, foreign aid, military relations, agricultural relations, cultural relations) and through detailed case studies of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF), the China-Middle East Issues Special Envoy, and the China-Africa Issues Special Envoy. According to the findings of this dissertation, the theoretical perspectives which provide the most fruitful insights into China's behavior as a rising power towards the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa in the post-Cold War era are Gilpin's work on hegemonic transitions and power transition theory. Over the last twenty years, as China's economic capabilities have increased, so has its dissatisfaction and revisionist behavior in these regions. China's behavior is best explained by its mercantilist economic interests focused on acquiring resources and markets to fuel its own domestic growth combined with its identity as a developing country. One of the most important findings of this dissertation is that China's behavior towards the international order varies dramatically across functional areas. In functional areas closest to its vital interests (politics and economics) it is revisionist towards both the distribution of power and the rules of the international system, but in functional areas more peripheral to its interests (military) it is integrationist. These findings indicate that it is important to understand China's interests as a rising power in these regions and that political or economic revisionism does not necessarily imply that China will also behave in a revisionist way in the military realm.