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Breaking the Enemy's Resistance Without Fighting: An Examination of P.R.C. Gray Zone Tactics in the Indo-Pacific

Hans, Victoria (2023) Breaking the Enemy's Resistance Without Fighting: An Examination of P.R.C. Gray Zone Tactics in the Indo-Pacific. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Throughout the past decade, the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) has increasingly employed gray zone tactics in the Indo-Pacific to coerce its neighbors to align with outcomes favorable to Beijing. In light of what some have called the “Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis” that occurred in August 2022, this thesis examines the P.R.C.’s use of military gray zone tactics in maritime and air spaces around disputed territories vis-à-vis Taiwan and Japan, in addition to discussing how the United States, as an important ally to Japan and partner to Taiwan, has influenced China’s use of such tactics. Particular emphasis is placed on Taiwan’s status in the international system as well as the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Balance of Power and Balance of Threat theories provide analytical leverage to understand why the P.R.C. is utilizing force in the form of military gray zone tactics, and literature on covert action and plausible deniability provides one explanation for how the P.R.C. is using such force. Balance of Power theory helps illuminate why the P.R.C.’s military reforms and national strategies such as the “Chinese Dream,” coupled with the convergence of Chinese and American defense expenditures, appear to have presented more opportunities for China to exert its influence on other states. Balance of Threat theory sheds light on why perceived violations of the P.R.C.’s One China Principle, differing identities and values, and expanding military capabilities of Taiwan and Japan appear to have caused China to act in defense of what its leadership believes to be Chinese territory. Lastly, literature on covert action and plausible deniability helps us understand how the P.R.C. may be balancing between its tactical and strategic considerations with potential escalation costs of aggressive behavior. In particular, the P.R.C.’s unofficial utilization of its maritime militia to apply pressure in territorial disputes appears to be a type of pseudo-covert action that enables China to seek out more control around disputed territories while still maintaining a level of plausible deniability.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGrauer,
Committee MemberCondra,
Committee MemberHaas,
Date: 20 June 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 April 2023
Approval Date: 20 June 2023
Submission Date: 11 June 2023
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 124
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Gray Zone, China, Taiwan, Japan, United States, Balance of Power, Balance of Threat, Pseudo-covert Action
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2023 16:07
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2023 16:07


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