Graduation Year

2015

Date of Submission

4-2015

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

International Relations

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© 2015 Tsu-Yuan Lin

Abstract

This thesis seeks to understand the current dynamics of misperceptions in Southeast Asia. The paper would focus on three actors in the region: China, the U.S., and a representative state of ASEAN, Vietnam. The actors would be examined in the context of the South China Sea disputes. The essential goal of U.S. policymakers it to achieve peace and stability in the region by building a liberal order, but the existence of misperceptions makes it highly challenging. The misperceptions stem from the fact that each actor has to predict what paradigm what other actors’ actions are based on in the region. In order to reduce misperception, there must be a high level of trust derived from consistent rhetoric accompanied with actions. The paper finds that the problem lies in the fact that to achieve a coherent foreign policy that other actors can interpret consistently, there must be a convergence of domestic politics and other states’ actions that allows each actor to have a positive and constructive interpretation of its options. The paper examines how domestic politics can often hinder a coherent foreign policy that eliminates confusion for other actors. Furthermore, in the case study between the three actors, China, the U.S., and Vietnam, will demonstrate how actors’ behaviors and actions can be changing due to other actors and domestic politics. Therefore, the paper suggests several policies that the U.S. needs to take in order to reduce the tension between domestic politics and other states’ actions.

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