Accommodation or Coercion
Great powers use alliances to amass capabilities. As such, alliance balancing strategies are important part of a balance-of-power system. In order to seek security, great powers frequently employ alliance balancing strategies, which can take two forms: to divide hostile alliances or prevent those from forming (i.e. wedge strategies), and to bind their own allies (i.e. binding strategies). When choosing these strategies, great powers face two options: accommodation and coercion. This dissertation explores the question of how great powers choose between these two options. I argue that a great power chooses its wedge strategies based on two factors: its leverage over its target and the degree of security cooperation between its target and its adversary. When the great power’s leverage is strong, it will opt for accommodative wedge strategies, despite the degree of security cooperation between its target and its adversary. Meanwhile the great power is likely to use coercive wedge strategies as its complementary strategy. When the great power’s leverage is weak, it will evaluate the degree of security cooperation between its target and its adversary. When such cooperation is at a high level, the great power will choose coercive wedge strategies as its primary strategy and accommodative ones as its complementary strategy. In contrast, a great power’s choice of its binding strategies is determined by its leverage over its target and its fear of being abandoned by its target. When its leverage is strong, the great power will choose coercive binding strategies as its primary strategy and accommodative ones as its complementary strategy, despite the fear of abandonment. When its leverage is low, the great power will assess its fear of abandonment. Strong fear of abandonment will lead the great power to choose accommodative binding strategies as its primary strategy and coercive ones as its complementary strategy. I test this theory using qualitative cases studies of China’s choices of its alliance balancing strategies. These cases include variation in China’s strategic choices that allows me to test the explanatory power of my theory. I examine these cases drawing on archives, government documents, newspapers, and secondary materials from China and the United States. I conclude this dissertation with a summary of my findings and a discussion on implications and future research avenues.