Beyond the Great Wall: China Secures for Buffers

Listen to the seminar here.

State behaviour will change according to variances of polarity in the international system. This assumption that state behaviour and the change of the polarity is responsive appeared in many seminal works in the field of international relations. However, China’s long-held policy goals toward Taiwan, North Korea, and Mongolia present an obvious abnormality for this theoretic logic. Annexing Taiwan, maintaining the existence of North Korea, and neutralizing Mongolia are policy goals China has been pursuing for decades, although the power distribution of Northeast Asia has changed many times in the past sixty years. How to explain this puzzling behavioural consistency of China? This talk will provide a geopolitical answer to this question. It demonstrates that China’s behaviour toward the three states have been driven by “buffer thinking,” which appears when Chinese leaders are conceiving of ways to fend off potential military threats from a specific neighbouring territory. Chinese leaders’ historical memory of how a foreign rival invaded China via the buffer territory further strengthened this mentality. Therefore, this talk argues, buffer thinking is an intervening variable that mediates the effect of variation of the power distribution in the system. This also explains why China’s behaviour toward the three states is less responsive to the changes of polarity as what it is expected from IR theories.

About the speaker

Yu-Hua Chen is a PhD Scholar at the School of Culture, History, and Language at the Australian National University (ANU). Yu-Hua’s research interests include China’s security policy, international relations theory, geopolitics, and China-Taiwan relations. His articles have appeared in The Diplomat, The National Interest, ChinaFile, East Asia Forum, Taiwan Insight, and IPP Review. His doctoral research investigates the relationship between buffer states and the making of China’s security policies. His doctoral research has been supported by grants from the Taiwanese government, the ANU, Peking University, and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. Prior to commencing his PhD at the ANU, Yu-Hua worked at Academia Sinica and served in the ROC Army as a Second Lieutenant.

Before the seminar

All attendees are invited to join us in the CIW Tea House from 3.30pm for an informal discussion with the guest speaker before the seminar.

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University’s College of Asia & the Pacific.


Yu-Hua Chen

Dates & times

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

4.00pm - 5.30pm


Seminar Rooms, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU

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