International Relations

Power Shifts, Multiple Audiences and Credible Reassurance



Rising states face great difficulty credibly communicating benign intentions, due to strong incentives for hostile risers to misrepresent themselves. However, the literature on power shifts and reassurance focuses on bilateral interactions between a rising and declining state. This article presents a model showing that with more than one audience, rising states can communicate their intentions through simple, costless statements. In particular, if the preferences of the receivers are sufficiently divergent, the rising sender cannot simultaneously send cooperative public signals to both parties in order to avoid a balancing response. This reduces the riser's incentive to misrepresent its preferences, and lends credibility to its public statements of its intentions. The credibility of these signals is enhanced to the extent that they align with the preferences of the less-powerful receiver. The theory is illustrated by a case study of the Open Door Notes and applied to contemporary China's reassurance of Russia.


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