Reassurance through special envoys: the empathic de-escalation of security dilemma and status dilemma dynamics in China-India relations, 1986-2000

Cervasio, Chiara (2022). Reassurance through special envoys: the empathic de-escalation of security dilemma and status dilemma dynamics in China-India relations, 1986-2000. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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How can empathic state leaders credibly signal their peaceful motives and intentions to counterparts operating with a distrusting mindset in the context of military and political competitions generated by security dilemma and status dilemma dynamics? Existing International Relations (IR) theories see no space for de-escalating the competition when the receiver of the signal has an enemy image of the adversary, as any conciliatory move is likely to be regarded as a trick or a sign of weakness and ignored. This generates a puzzle: the extant IR literature on security dilemma and status dilemma dynamics is at variance with how Indian and Chinese decision-makers managed to de-escalate their security and status competitions in the late 1980s and 1990s, respectively. This thesis seeks to respond to this puzzle and explain the deviant outcome of the two Sino-Indian case studies by developing a new reassurance mechanism called reassurance through special envoys. This is a two-step causal mechanism hypothesised to connect face-to-face diplomacy between a special envoy acting on behalf of an empathic leader and a distruster with the de-escalation of security/status dilemma dynamics. The main argument of this study is that, under certain scope conditions, face-to-face diplomacy between the envoy and the distruster can lead the latter to develop empathy towards the empathic leader. In other words, the distruster can come to see the situation from the adversary’s perspective and understand that both sides are committed to mutual security. This argument is developed using a deviant case study research design and a theory-testing process tracing methodology. The two key steps of the hypothesised causal mechanism are translated into case-specific predictions and tested against the two Sino-Indian case studies. The research findings support the key claim of this thesis that reassurance through special envoys can trigger the de-escalation of security/status dilemma dynamics by leading a distruster to develop empathy towards an adversary. This contributes to the IR debate on whether and how states and state leaders can credibly signal their type to their adversaries in a condition of inescapable uncertainty about the motives and intentions of others.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies
Funders: Other
Other Funders: School of Government and Society
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JZ International relations


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