Regime change and foreign policy adjustments have been closely intertwined in Myanmar’s recent experience. Since 2011, domestic political transition has been paralleled by changes in the country’s foreign policy posture, with Naypyitaw reconsidering its dependence on Beijing while seeking rapprochement with Washington. Taking Myanmar as a case study, this essay aims to address the theoretical issue of how regime change influences the foreign policy of a country. The first two sections draw on Foreign Policy Analysis and Comparative Politics to develop an analytical framework for the study of foreign policy choices during regime change. The focus is on how transitional politics interacts with external influence, against the background of loosened distinctions between the domestic and international levels. The last two sections test the analytical framework against the ups and downs of Myanmar’s economic cooperation with China. Two decisions of the Myanmar government are analysed: the 2011 decision to suspend cooperation on the Myitsone dam, and the 2012 decision to continue cooperation on the Letpadaung mine. While apparently contradictory, Naypyitaw’s behaviour on these two occasions helps to unravel the dilemmas that foreign policy decision-makers face at times of political transition.
Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder‘Democratization and the danger of war’International SecurityVol. 20 No. 1 (1995) pp. 5–38; Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder ‘Democratic transitions institutional strength and war’ International Organization Vol. 56 No. 2 (2002) pp. 297–337. See below for a discussion of this argument.
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