Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Political Science


Political Science, International Law and Relations.


Burton, B.




This thesis focuses on foreign policy changes over the forty-five year history of the People's Republic of China, attempts to explain these changes, and explores a model that analyzes China's foreign policy and predicts tendencies for further transition. The analytic framework incorporates Kal J. Holsti's foreign policy restructuring model, focusing on a particular type of foreign policy change--restructuring. This is the dramatic, wholesale alteration of a nation's pattern of external relations. Holsti believes that the impetus for foreign policy restructuring is often a response to a threat--but not always a military threat. The threats of the modern era contain cultural, informational and economic components. China has experienced such foreign policy restructuring four times. The patterns of its external relations have changed from the 1950's pro-Soviet dependence to the 1960's isolation, and then from the 1970's Sino-U.S. anti-Soviet strategic partnership to the 1980's non-alignment diversification. Conforming to Holsti's hypothesis, China's foreign policy restructuring has taken place when the decision-makers perceived domestic or external threats to national security, independence and development--the basic goals that have always been considered the most important to Chinese policy-makers. However, where China's foreign policy restructuring goes beyond the Holsti model is that threat is not the only explanation for such restructuring. Advantageous opportunity is also an impetus for policy restructuring. The findings of this thesis also suggest that China's foreign policy restructurings are closely related to its internal affairs. Domestic political crises, economic vulnerability and the state's development strategy have had an important influence on foreign policy restructuring. Aside from the domestic determinants, peripheral threats and boundary issues have been more likely to become the catalyst of foreign policy reorientations. The changing character of the international system and the Sino-Soviet-American triangle during the Cold War era have been key guiding determinants of foreign policy reorientation. In contrast, personality has been, in general, not a decisive factor. This was so because the external and domestic constraints usually did not give the leadership much leeway to put personal stamp on foreign policy reorientations. Furthermore, post-Mao era has seen an emphasis on economic determinants in foreign policy, idiosyncratic factors being even less influential. Ideology has also not been a predominant determinant in decision-making. Instead, it has been changeable in accordance with the need of policy-makers and adaptive to circumstances. Even in strongly ideological periods, ideological concerns never ignored national interests. Furthermore, the influence of orthodox Communist ideology has gradually decreased with the changes within China and in the outside world in the 1980s.Dept. of History, Philosophy, and Political Science. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1993 .Z424. Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 32-06, page: 1562. Adviser: Bruce Burton. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1993.