Understanding the East Asian Peace : Informal and formal conflict prevention and peacebuilding in the Taiwan Strait, the Korean Peninsula, and the South China Sea 1990-2008

Abstract: The overall purpose of this dissertation is to provide an empirical study of the post-Cold War EastAsian security setting, with the aim of understanding why there is an East Asian peace. The EastAsian peace exists in a region with a history of militarised conflicts, home to many of the world'slongest ongoing militarised problems and a number of unresolved critical flashpoints. Thus, thepost-Cold War East Asian inter-state peace is a paradox. Despite being a region predicted to be ripefor conflict, there have not only been less wars than expected, but the region also shows severalsigns of a development towards a more durable peace. The dominant research paradigm –neorealism – has painted a gloomy picture of post-Cold War East Asia, with perpetual conflictsdominating the predictions. Other mainstream international relations theories, too, fail to accountfully for the relative peace. One of the greatest problems for mainstream theories, is accounting forpeace given East Asia's lack of security organisations or other formalised conflict managementmechanisms. Given this paradox/problem, this dissertation sets out to ask "Why is there a relativepeace in the East Asian security setting despite an absence of security organisations or otherformalised mechanisms to prevent existing conflicts from escalating into violence?"In order to answer this question, the case of East Asian peace is approached by comparingthree embedded case studies within the region: the Taiwan issue, the South China Sea, and theKorean nuclear conflict. It explores the full range of informal and formal processes plus the ConflictPrevention and Peacebuilding Mechanisms (CPPBMs) that have been important for the creation ofa continuing relative peace in East Asia between 1990 and 2008. The study furthermore focuses onChina's role in the three cases, on an empirical basis consisting of interviews conducted with keypersons during more than 1.5 years fieldwork in China.The three cases show that informal processes exist, and that they have furthermore beenimportant for peace, both by preventing conflicts from escalating into war, and by buildingconditions for a stable longer-term peace. Their impact on the persistence of peace has been tracedto a range of different CPPBMs. Returning to the level of the East Asian case, a common feature ofmany of the identified processes is that they can be understood as aspects or manifestations of theEast Asian regionalisation process. Specifically, elite interactions (personal networks, track twodiplomacy), back-channel negotiations, economic interdependence and integration, and functionalcooperation have together with (China's acceptance of) multilateralism and institutionalisation (ofpeaceful relations) been of high importance for the relative peace. Whereas formalised conflictmanagement mechanisms and the U.S. presence have also contributed to peace, this dissertationshows their contribution to be much more limited.