Princeton University Library Catalog

Softly Shanghaied: Chinese Norm Diffusion in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Beacom, William [Browse]
Senior thesis
Meunier, Sophie [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
129 pages
Summary note:
China’s economic presence in Central Asia has given rise to the impression that China is “buying” influence in its western post-Soviet neighborhood. This thesis asserts instead that in a region where China, Russia and the United States compete for resources, military bases and supply networks, Chinese economic overtures deliver few political results. How can China exert influence under such conditions? This thesis argues that China has leveraged for political gain the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian security organization consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. China has vested the SCO with specifically Chinese interpretations of international norms, as determined by qualitative textual analysis of policy documents and a comparative analysis of Central Asian regional organizations. In turn, Central Asian states have adopted these sovereignty-enhancing and illiberal norms strategically to securitize dissent and bolster claims to regime legitimacy, as verified through process tracing of key incidents of unrest. This has resulted in Central Asian states aligning with China, against the United States and away from its historical patron, Russia, on issues of global significance, as tested by statistical and textual analysis of UN General Assembly voting records. Challenging the consensus that China lacks “soft power” and normative weight in international institutions, this thesis demonstrates that China has successfully instrumentalized a neglected security organization for geopolitical goals.