China has two contrasting images in the West: a cute panda and an evil dragon. In recent years, a near-consensus seems to be forming among policy makers in Washington that the People's Republic of China (PRC) is more of an evil dragon than a cute panda, using "sharp power" to threaten U.S. interests and world peace. The PRC is regarded by the current U.S. administration as a "strategic competitor," and a new Cold War seems to be looming between the world's two largest economies. Is the rise of China destined to cause conflicts or even war? After analyzing the conflict behavior of the PRC documented in the Correlates of War project's Militarized Interstate Dispute dataset (v4.3), this research shows that China's rise does not seem to make conflict more likely. Instead, with the growth of its power, Beijing has become increasingly reluctant to use force against other states. Drawing on the economic norms theory, the author argues that the development of the capitalist-market economy since late 1970s has fundamentally changed China's economic conditions, social norms and political culture. This transformation has helped the PRC form increasing interests in maintaining a robust global marketplace and a peaceful world order, thus making war or serious conflicts with other nations almost unimaginable. Currently, China is more a panda rather than a dragon. However, the West needs to remember that though vegetarian and non-predatory, pandas are bears with sharp teeth and nails. When pressured and cornered, they can be dangerous. The misunderstanding and fear of China, rather than the rise of China itself, is the real cause of the recent rise of US-China frictions.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Cao, Xiongwei, "Cute Panda or Evil Dragon? Market Economy, Conflict Behavior and China's Peaceful Rise" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 190.