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The role of individuals in foreign policy outcomes: A case study of the Australian response to the rise of China

Smith, Nathan (2014) The role of individuals in foreign policy outcomes: A case study of the Australian response to the rise of China. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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Australia finds itself increasingly poised between its traditional security alliance with the United States, and the economic opportunities afforded by its relationship with China. As tensions rise and recede between the U.S. and China, Australia's future seems to precariously balance between two divergent geostrategic objectives. How does the Australian government choose between these objectives? Dominant theorisations of foreign policy behaviour from International Relations literature focuses primarily on the system level-of-analysis, largely failing to consider the influence of individuals on the international climate. This thesis investigates whether the individual influence of the last the Australian Prime Ministers has impacted upon Australia's relationship with China. The study utilises a multiple-case study approach in order to analyse the foreign policy response of the Howard (1996-2007), Rudd (2007-2010) and Gillard (2010 - 2013) governments. Each case study investigates the foreign policy outcomes of each administration in terms of the economic relationship with China, the diplomatic response to Chinese domestic insecurities, and defence policy concerning China. Within each of these aspects, the foreign policy responses are considered as either cooperative or antagonistic policies. The study finds that while systemic forces contribute the overarching structure of Australian foreign policy concerns, the individual influence of the Prime Ministers' interpretation and response significantly influence the policy outcomes. Using these case studies of Australian foreign policy behaviour, the study argues that the mainstream understanding of the level-of-analysis problem is insufficient in explaining and predicting the foreign policy decisions of states. Rather, an alternative conceptual understanding of analytical levels as necessarily interacting is required. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that Australia's leaders can influence the outcomes of the Sino-Australian relationship.

Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation: Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs
Supervisor: Wilson, Jeffrey
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