[1] Hye Ryeon Jang and Benjamin Smith. “Pax Petrolica? Rethinking the Oil-Interstate War Linkage.” Security Studies 30, no. 2 (2021). [Link]


In the last decade resource curse scholars have argued widely that oil-rich countries are more likely to initiate armed disputes with their neighbors. In this essay, we argue that the evidence points toward oil peace, not conflict, as a function of both domestic and international factors. We draw on analyses of our own dataset and two from past studies to show that the data is more supportive of petro-peace than of petro-aggression. We also demonstrate that the Iran–Iraq War is singularly responsible for what was believed to have been a radical-petro-aggression effect globally. We conclude that, to the extent that evidence suggests a trend, it is more likely for a Pax Petrolica.

[2] Lee, Jean Young and Hye Ryeon Jang, “Bilingual Education Policy in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Uyghur Society.” The Korean Journal of Northeast Asia Studies 56 (2010): 105-132.

Work In Progress

1. “China’s Energy Vulnerability, Trade Dependence, and the Escalation of Its Militarized Maritime Disputes’’

Why has China escalated maritime disputes in the South China Sea but not in the East China Sea or Yellow Sea? Since China began its rapid economic development in the late 1980s, the rise of China has created both economic opportunities for, and security threats to, its neighbor states. As Southeast Asian states became more heavily dependent on bilateral trade with China in recent decades, the Chinese government has attempted to expand its influence in the South China Sea. The literature primarily focuses on China’s great power ambitions in East Asia as a whole. However, the puzzle of why China has not escalated its military actions in the East China Sea or Yellow Sea remains. I argue that two factors—China’s energy mercantilism (ambition to secure stable energy supplies) and its economic leverage over Southeast Asian states—explain this variation in strategy. Employing statistical analysis of an original dataset and GIS spatial analysis, I demonstrate that China is more likely to escalate disputes when it experiences greater energy vulnerability against more asymmetrically dependent neighbor states in which there exist higher geostrategic values, natural resources and proximity to major oil shipping lanes.

2. “Understanding Spatial Correlation between Geostrategic Values of China’s Disputed Islands and the Escalation of Its Military Actions’’

During the past decade China has aggressively expanded its influence around the Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, and Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Unlike them, however, China has rarely escalated militarized tensions in other areas in the South China Sea. Why has China escalated military actions in only certain areas of the South China Sea? My research aims to examine the causal factor—geostrategic values of the disputed islands—and spatial dependence of China’s inconsistent behavior in its maritime disputes. I believe China tends to escalate military actions around the disputed islands which have high geostrategic values and in which China experienced militarized confrontations before. As such, the more natural resources (oil and natural gas) are embedded around the disputed islands and the closer China’s main sea lanes of communications (SLOCs) is to the disputed islands, and the greater the likelihood that China will increase militarized tensions nearby the islands where China experienced military confrontations with its counterpart a year ago. To test my hypothesis, I use the ArcGIS analysis and produce a new map to show the spatial correlation between China’s escalation of military conflict and the geostrategic values of the region. Afterward, via using a spatial lag model with time-lagged effects, this research shows China is more likely to increase military tensions near the islands which have more reserved natural resources, which are closer to SLOCs is closer, and where China encountered military confrontations with Southeast Asian neighbor countries before.

3. “Great Powers and the World Oil Market: A Network Analysis of China’s Rise and Shifting Oil Export Geography,’’ with Benjamin Smith

In this paper we address the role of great power alliances with oil producers and how they have changed in the last 50 years. Crude oil is the single largest commodity trade in the world, and most countries import oil from a small number of oil-producing countries through the international market. As such, there is always highly asymmetric structure. How does the emergence of a new great power, such as China, change the structure of the international crude oil market? If the great power has oil-producing allies, how does it affect the oil market? We employ spatial network analysis to answer the first question, where the oil trading countries are considered nodes, oil trading relations are considered edges, and weight is oil trade volume. Through spatial network analysis, we compare the crucial values of centrality, density, and modularity of the oil trade network before and after China’s emergence as a major power. We conclude that the oil trade network has become more centralized and ordered since China became a major oil-importing country in the mid-2000s. Traditional key oil-importing countries—the United States and Europe—lost influence in 2012 while China’s in-degree centrality in the network increased dramatically. Moreover, China has created its own trading blocs in the Middle East and Central Africa, which also indicate the critically increased influence of China within the global network. We then turn to the second question, accounting for whether major powers are oil producers or not, using global data from 1945 to 2010. We demonstrate that this question is key to understanding whether great power allies render oil producing countries more likely to initiate conflicts. The more import-dependent the major power, the less likely pressure on its producing allies, both before and after China’s rise.

4. “Ideological Convergence and China’s Model in Central and Eastern Europe,’’ with Qingming Huang

For many years, the prevailing liberal international order has been confronted with chronic problems from within the order and serious challenges from the rising great powers. The pandemic further exposes the tensions within the Western bloc, giving China an opportunity to advance its influence. Presenting itself as an alternative provider of economic opportunities and public goods in the global arena, China’s authoritarian political-economic model has become increasingly popular in Central and Eastern Europe. This model is characterized by the absence of political conditionality that favors liberal values and the exportation of domestic state-led model that helps build China’s economic strength. This paper analyzes the factors that lead to China’s growing influence in Central and Eastern Europe. The new wave of autocratization in this region and the divisions within the European Union pave the way for China to promote its model through the Belt and Road Initiative and more recently the “Health Silk Road”. However, the level of receptivity to China’s influence is conditioned by ideological convergence as well as external constraint from dominant Western powers. Focusing on the cases of Hungary, Poland (both EU members), and Serbia (non-EU member), this paper uses mixed method—statistical analysis and comparative case studies—to examine how these countries differ in their receptivity to China’s influence, and how their domestic political trend and their engagements with China’s model have affected their voting behavior and diplomatic support for China’s core interests in the European Parliament.