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Thomas Christensen


Thomas Christensen is an associate professor of Political Science at MIT. His research and teaching focus on international relations theory, the international relations of East Asia, and China's foreign relations. Professor Christensen has published a book, Useful Adversaries: Grand Strategy, Domestic Mobilization, and SinoAmerican Conflict, 1947–1958, and articles on several topics, including "Theater Missile Defense and Taiwan's Security," Orbis, Winter 2000; "China: Getting the Questions Right," with Richard K. Betts, The National Interest, Winter 200/01; and "Posing Problems without Catching Up," International Security, Vol. 25, No. 4, Spring 2001. He is currently studying the role of nationalism and ideology in Communist alliances in East Asia during the Cold War and how the legacy of U.S. Cold War alliances affect contemporary East Asian international relations. Professor Christensen is also working on projects relating to the growth of Chinese power, China's contemporary military doctrine, and American strategy toward East Asia.

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Recent Commentary

Foreign Policy

Beijing's Views of Taiwan and the United States in 2002: The Renaissance of Pessimism

by Thomas Christensenvia China Leadership Monitor
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

This essay addresses the decline in Beijing's optimism about cross-Strait relations following the December 2001 Legislative Yuan election in Taiwan and how that shift may affect Beijing's views toward a range of security issues. In this context, the essay assesses Beijing's rising concerns about Washington's posture toward cross-Strait relations in the wake of President Bush's trip to China in February and Beijing's increasingly critical posture toward the American war on terrorism and U.S. security policies in general.

Foreign Policy

Terrorism, Taiwan Elections, and Tattered Treaties: PRC Security Politics From September 11 Through Year's End

by Thomas Christensenvia China Leadership Monitor
Tuesday, April 30, 2002

This essay addresses three important issues in Beijing's security policy since early September. First, and most obvious, is the September 11 attack on America and the newfound spirit of U.S.-China cooperation that arose from that atrocious event. Second are trends in the mainland's relations with Taiwan in the weeks surrounding the December 2001 Legislative Yuan elections, in which President Chen Shui-bian's Party, the DPP, did surprisingly well despite the economic recession on Taiwan. Third are arms control issues surrounding President Bush's announcement of Washington's impending unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.

Foreign Policy

Tracking China's Security Relations: Causes for Optimism and Pessimism

by Thomas Christensenvia China Leadership Monitor
Wednesday, January 30, 2002

This essay offers an analytical framework and a set of assumptions for assessing China's security policies and reviews important trends in China's security relations. The analytical approach should help us know what to look for when observing key events ahead. These include: Taiwan's 2001 Legislative Yuan elections; economic developments in cross-Straits relations; arms acquisitions and military exercises on the mainland and in Taiwan; Chinese and American diplomatic overtures in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia; and the 2002 Chinese Communist Party congress.