Date of Award

Summer 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Jie Chen

Committee Member

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Qiu Jin

Committee Member

Shaomin Li


Since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between China and the ASEAN states following the end of the Cold War, Sino-ASEAN relations have widened and deepened considerably. This is surprising, considering that most ASEAN states viewed China as a revisionist power and threat to regional security during the Cold War and Vietnam and the Philippines have a history of armed conflict with China over as-of-yet unresolved territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Given the withdrawal of American military forces from the Philippines in 1992 and the steady growth of Chinese economic and military power, one might expect ASEAN's traditionally-held threat perceptions of China to continue or even increase. This, however, is not the case as China is viewed increasingly in Southeast Asia as a cooperative, responsible "good neighbor" and Sino-ASEAN relations continue to deepen. This study argues that a reorientation of Chinese regional foreign policy is the principal force responsible for these surprising turn of events, and that additional factors supervened structural factors in inducing this reorientation. Through a historical analysis within a social constructivist theoretical framework of arguably the most contentious issue in Sino-ASEAN relations, this study concludes that China's cognitive base was changed as a result of "complex" social learning induced by increased diplomatic interaction with ASEAN which, in turn, led to Beijing's successful "good neighbor" diplomacy and the subsequent emergence of China's new "post-Cold War" identity in Southeast Asia and beyond.