Document Type



International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Mohiaddin Mesbahi

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Thomas Breslin

Third Advisor's Name

Ronald Cox

Fourth Advisor's Name

Peter Craumer


Soft Balancing, Normative power, Soft power, Hegemony, China, Russia, United States, Central Asia

Date of Defense



This study explores how great powers not allied with the United States formulate their grand strategies in a unipolar international system. Specifically, it analyzes the strategies China and Russia have developed to deal with U.S. hegemony by examining how Moscow and Beijing have responded to American intervention in Central Asia. The study argues that China and Russia have adopted a soft balancing strategy of to indirectly balance the United States at the regional level. This strategy uses normative capabilities such as soft power, alternative institutions and regionalization to offset the overwhelming material hardware of the hegemon. The theoretical and methodological approach of this dissertation is neoclassical realism. Chinese and Russian balancing efforts against the United States are based on their domestic dynamics as well as systemic constraints. Neoclassical realism provides a bridge between the internal characteristics of states and the environment which those states are situated. Because China and Russia do not have the hardware (military or economic power) to directly challenge the United States, they must resort to their software (soft power and norms) to indirectly counter American preferences and set the agenda to obtain their own interests. Neoclassical realism maintains that soft power is an extension of hard power and a reflection of the internal makeup of states. The dissertation uses the heuristic case study method to demonstrate the efficacy of soft balancing. Such case studies help to facilitate theory construction and are not necessarily the demonstrable final say on how states behave under given contexts. Nevertheless, it finds that China and Russia have increased their soft power to counterbalance the United States in certain regions of the world, Central Asia in particular. The conclusion explains how soft balancing can be integrated into the overall balance-of-power framework to explain Chinese and Russian responses to U.S. hegemony. It also suggests that an analysis of norms and soft power should be integrated into the study of grand strategy, including both foreign policy and military doctrine.





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