How a Rising Power Treats Small States amid Power Transition: Evidence from the Sui and Tang Dynasties

Xiao Wan, Yu Shan Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In a world buffeted by chaos emanating from the power transition between the USA and China, the behaviour patterns of a rising power carry considerable significance.This article explains a rising power's choice of policies towards small states and why it adopts them. We then test the competing “power” and “culture” hypotheses by analysing asymmetric interactions during the “power transition” between the Turkic/Eastern Turkic Khanate and Sui-Tang China. The policies of Sui-Tang China towards Tuyuhun, Koguryo, and the Serindian oasis city-states confirm the materialist logic whereby it is the power balance between the major powers that determines a rising power's strategic tendency when confronting the hegemon and which, in turn, generates the overall approaches of its policies towards small countries. However, the most-similar sub-cases invalidate the cultural affinity hypothesis. The study undermines the Chinese exceptionalism argument through its provision of a causal chain connecting great-power relations and asymmetric relations. Our findings suggest that, prior to overtaking the USA, China will maintain a defensive posture towards the USA and adopt moderate policies towards lesser nations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-240
Number of pages33
JournalChinese Journal of International Politics
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

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