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Since the 1940s–60s, China’s ultimate policy goals toward North Korea, Taiwan, and Mongolia have been maintaining the existence of North Korea, annexing Taiwan, and neutralizing Mongolia. To date, those policy goals have not changed. This strongly consistent behaviour of China towards the three states directly contradicts a basic tenet of international relations theory that behavioral change is a constant. The central argument of this thesis is that China needs buffers. China’s policies regarding North Korea, Taiwan and Mongolia are constrained by buffer thinking, which is a very unique synthesis of the strategic awareness of vulnerable geographical locations, traumatic historical memories, and awareness of potential military threats of great powers. Based on the most recent declassified documents on China’s foreign policymaking from China and Taiwan, this thesis will illustrate the original views of the Chinese Communist Party on Korea, Taiwan and Mongolia before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, when and how buffer thinking took shape in the minds of the CCP leaders, and how a geopolitical rationale consistently drove China’s policy goals in relation to North Korea, Taiwan, and Mongolia from the 1950s to the 2000s.
About the speaker: Yu-Hua Chen (陳宥樺) is a PhD Scholar at the School of Culture, History, and Language at the Australian National University (ANU). Yu-Hua’s research interests include China’s security policy, international relations theory, geopolitics, and China-Taiwan relations. His articles have appeared in The National Interest, ChinaFile, East Asia Forum, and IPP Review. His doctoral research investigates the relationship between buffer states and the making of China’s security policies. By assessing the degree to which China’s buffer thinking influenced its policies on North Korea, Taiwan, and Mongolia, he aims to bring the importance of geopolitical thinking back to the discussion of Chinese security policy studies. His doctoral research has been supported by grants from the Taiwanese government, the ANU, Peking University, and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. Prior to commencing his PhD at the ANU, Yu-Hua worked at Academia Sinica and served in the ROC Army as a Second Lieutenant.