UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

China’s South Asia policy through a domestic sovereignty perspective Indraguptha, Gihan Dhanushka


China’s South Asia Policy is currently perceived mostly from realist geopolitical and to a lesser degree, commercial liberalism perspectives. These frameworks ignore China’s own vulnerabilities in its restive periphery which are significant factors in determining policy towards its neighbours. This is especially true in South Asia since Xinjiang and Tibet, the two most volatile minority areas, border this region. The ‘core-periphery structure’ offers a useful tool to fathom China’s contradictory dichotomy where it exists as a strong state at its ‘core’ while being insecure and weak in the ‘periphery’. This dichotomy is seen in dealings with its neighbours as well. As a result, the realist geopolitical analysis offers a sufficient framework to understand China’s interactions with nations bordering its ‘core’, for example in Southeast and Northeast Asia, where it projects itself as a strong, unified state. Yet such an analysis will fall short when explaining the PRC’s interactions with states neighbouring its periphery, in this case in South Asia, due to a perceived ‘insecurity dilemma’. An economics-driven commercial liberalism perspective would also fail to capture the internal complexities and perceived vulnerabilities faced by the PRC in its interaction with South Asia. Therefore it is useful to explore an alternative framework taking account of domestic sovereignty factors. The perceived ‘insecurity dilemma’ in the periphery have been addressed by the PRC since 1949 through policies that sought to assimilate these regions with the ‘core’ of the country. Initially these policies attempted assimilation through coercion but since the late 1970s, a softer approach has been applied through economic empowerment and reduction of disparities. An extension of these domestic policies in Xinxiang and Tibet are reflected in the PRC’s dealings with nations that border these regions. With regard to South Asia, a closer scrutiny reveals such interconnections in the PRC’s policies towards Afghanistan and Pakistan with relation to Xinjiang and similarly towards India, Nepal and Bhutan with relation to Tibet. Such an assessment that takes note of domestic sovereignty considerations offers a more comprehensive analysis of China’s South Asia policy and would contribute to alleviate tensions resulting from misinterpretation of these policies.

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