Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

First Advisor

Henry F. Carey - Chair

Second Advisor

William Downs

Third Advisor

Kim Reimann


This study interprets the puzzling absence of war among the US, China, and Taiwan from 1990 to 2005, when identity politics across the Taiwan Strait caused high tensions. The application of realist constructivism theory to this case would produce a prediction of war there resulting from conflicting identities, which produce irreconcilable conflicts of interests over territorial claims. However, the application of four other, relevant international relations theories explains this absence of war during this period. A zero-sum game of competing identities was replaced by a positive-game resulting from three liberal theories promoting inter-state cooperation: complex interdependence; state trading identities; and issue-linkage functions and one alternative realist theory, offensive realism, which shows that the balance of power deters war. Assuming China’s increased defense spending does not alter the balance of power in its favor, the current relative peace will continue to prevail, at least in the short to medium term.