University of Leicester
2016JohnsonPhD.pdf (2.1 MB)

The U.S.-China Military and Defence Relationship during the First Obama Administration 2009-2013: Deteriorating Military Relations in the Asia Pacific, Washington’s Strategic and Military Responses and Security Dilemma Explanations

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posted on 2017-01-31, 15:59 authored by James Samuel Johnson
This thesis applies the Security Dilemma concept to explain the deterioration in U.S.-China military and defence relations in the Asia Pacific region between 2009 and 2013. It builds upon the existing empirical base that has used the security dilemma to explain contemporary U.S-China security relations. The thesis concludes that this condition has in important ways influenced Washington’s strategic calculations and military responses vis-à-vis China, which in turn perceptibly worsened U.S.-China military and defence relations. The central contribution of this thesis is a much needed addition to the existing scholarly understanding of the presence of the security dilemma in Washington’s strategic thinking and military policy formulation vis-à-vis Beijing. It also proffers a compelling case for the continued relevance of this concept to elucidate contemporary U.S.-China security relations. The thesis develops a robust theoretical framework of analysis to validate the existence of a genuine U.S.-China security dilemma. The case study chapters apply this framework to highlight and explain incidences of Washington’s misunderstandings of Beijing’s strategic intentions, caused by misinterpretations and misperceptions - worsening U.S-China military and defence relations. The case studies also address several conceptual and analytical gaps in the existing literature that have used the security dilemma concept to explain contemporary U.S.-China security relations: the importance being able to clearly distinguish between states’ military capabilities and intentions; a more integrative approach in the application of the security dilemma to view military domains; elaborating on some of the issues related to the ‘ambiguity of weapons’ in IR and worsening security dilemma dynamics; and extending the under-theorised discourse related to the U.S.-China ‘asymmetric’ military balance of power in the Asia Pacific. While the primary purpose of this thesis is to extend the existing empirical literature, it also generates several conclusions and implications for security dilemma theorising itself.



Futter, Andrew; Strachan-Morris, David

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Politics and International Relations

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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