1st Edition

China, Faits Accomplis and the Contest for East Asia The Shadow of Shifting Power

By Joshua Hastey Copyright 2023
    172 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores China’s use of faits accomplis in its periphery, and offers the first formal model for the use of faits accomplis by rising powers.

    With growing attention to great power competition and conflict in the gray zone between war and peace, this book explains China’s use of faits accomplis to revise the maritime status quo in the South and East China Seas. Using formal modelling and case study analysis, the book argues that while power shifts provide rising states with opportunities to impose faits accomplis to revise the status quo, the use of faits accomplis also increase the likelihood of war with the dominant state(s). The book surveys existing understandings of how power shifts incentivize interstate competition in general and in the case of Sino-American competition in particular, and brings existing theory and novel modelling to explain China’s differing strategies in the South and East China Seas in the first two decades of the 21st century. The book concludes by using the lessons from these cases to assess the strategic options available to both states and conditions that make a peaceful resolution more likely.

    This book will be of much interest to students of Chinese politics, Asian security studies and International Relations.

    1. Introduction

    2. Faits Accomplis: A Blind Spot in Security Studies

    3. Modeling Faits Accomplis in the Shadow of Shifting Power

    4. Deciding to Seize: China’s Territorial Disputes in The South China Sea

    5. Deciding not to Seize: China’s Territorial Disputes in The East China Sea

    6. Faits Accomplis, Costs of Revision, and the South and East China Seas

    7. Conclusions and Implications


    Joshua Adam Hastey is an Assistant Professor in the Robertson School of Government, at Regent University, USA and an Adjunct Professor at the United States Naval War College.

    'For all the history of faits accomplis among great powers, we know surprisingly little about when and why states employ such tactics—and as importantly, when they choose not to. Hastey’s game theoretic interrogation of this question unlocks the puzzling approaches China has taken toward territorial disputes. As Russia’s war in Ukraine heralds a new era of great power rivalry, this book is a must-read for both scholars and practitioners seeking to make sense of realpolitik in the 21st century.'

    David C. Earnest, Odeen-Swanson Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of South Dakota, USA

    'Joshua Hastey has written the first book about one of the most important and yet most understudied strategies in international politics: the fait accompli. He develops a novel theory arguing that relative power shifts cause rising states to employ faits accomplis even though this increases the likelihood of war. Establishing its logic with game theory, he applies it to Chinese policies in the East and South China Seas, two of the most likely flashpoints for a war with China. This book will appeal to those with interests in strategy, deterrence, the causes of war, game theory in International Relations, and East Asian security.'

    Dan Altman, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University, USA

    'This book is an excellent work of synthesis and interpretation on the problematic of fait accomplis. It combines a solid theoretical framework on the relationship between faits accomplis, shifts in the distribution of power, preventive war and unilateral strategic concessions with the relevant case study of China’s policies in Asia-Pacific. The book is a significant contribution both to the literature on gray zone conflict and China’s foreign policy.'

    Javier Jordan, Full Professor of Political Science, University of Granada, Spain

    'This timely book explores a crucial policy strategy for rising states that has been largely neglected by IR scholars: the fait accompli. Theoretically innovative, empirically rich, and policy-relevant, it convincingly establishes the conditions under which faits accompli will be employed, their impact on the likelihood of war, and their practical implications for China’s contemporary foreign relations. This rare combination of novelty, analytical rigor, and clear application will be of great interest to IR theorists and practitioners alike.'

    Brandon Yoder, Senior Lecturer, School of Politics and International Relations, Australian National University, Australia

    'The rise of a revisionist China has raised the spectre of great power conflict, and a new book on the danger seems to release every month. Often overlooked in this race to think about the unthinkable is the much more ordinary, but much more likely, possibility of aggressive revision without war: of a series of faits accomplis that could remake the region within a few short decades. Here, Joshua Hastey joins a young but growing scholarly interest in "grey zone" conflicts. He moves fluidly between the game-theoretic literature on crisis bargaining and qualitative scholarship on shifting Chinese foreign policy. Ultimately, his accessible yet rigorous analysis shows how "low-stakes" contests can change the tempo and character of power transitions---and especially, of the Sino-American transition ahead.'

    Richard Jordan, Assistant Professor, Baylor University, USA

    'This is an exceptional work that delves into the complexities of power shifts and territorial disputes. Dr. Hastey combines game theoretic modeling with case studies of China's maritime disputes to provide insights into the dynamics of faits accomplis, as well as how states use them to gain leverage in territorial disputes. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the changing power dynamics of East Asia, and the implications of such dynamics for international relations and global security.'

    Cathy Xuanxuan Wu, Old Dominion University, USA