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Why China Shifted to Regional Multilateralism?

Injoo Sohn

On 8 February 2007, Injoo Sohn, a visiting research fellow with the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), and postdoctoral fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, presented his research on “Learning to Cooperate: China’s Multilateral Diplomacy toward Asian Financial Cooperation.” Challenging prominent materialist explanations about China’s policy toward Asian financial cooperation (i.e. power transition thesis, realist balancing thesis, and economic utility thesis), he argued that the collective learning of Chinese policy elites through cognitive dissonance, feedback effects, transnational persuasion, explains much of the changes in China’s role identity and philosophical beliefs regarding regional cooperation. In his view, these prior ideational shifts helped to determine China’s behavior change from its muted opposition of Asian financial cooperation in the 1990s to its active support of regional financial cooperation in the early 2000s as evidenced in the emergence of the Chiang Mai Initiative, Chinese-Japanese-South Korean trilateral financial cooperation, and the Asian Bond Fund Initiative. His findings of Chinese learning also suggested that more fundamental changes in China’s national preference would make its support for Asian financial cooperation more consistent and stable in the foreseeable future than skeptics might anticipate. (Injoo Sohn)