Persuading Pariahs: Myanmar's Strategic Decision to Pursue Reform and Opening
Myanmar's liberalizing reforms since late 2010 have effectively shed the country's decades-long "pariah state" status. This article evaluates competing explanations for why Myanmar's leaders made the strategic decision to pursue reform and opening. We examine whether the strategic decision was motivated by fears of sudden regime change, by socialization into the norms of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), or by the geopolitics of overreliance on China. Drawing on newly available materials and recent field interviews in Myanmar, we demonstrate how difficult it is for international actors to persuade a pariah state through sanctions or engagement, given the pariah regime's intense focus on maintaining power. However, reliance on a more powerful neighbour can reach a point where costs to national autonomy become unacceptable, motivating reforms for the sake of economic and diplomatic diversification.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 September 2016
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- Pacific Affairs is a peer-reviewed, independent, and interdisciplinary scholarly journal focusing on important current political, economic and social issues throughout Asia and the Pacific. Each issue contains approximately five new articles and 40-50 book reviews. Published continuously as a quarterly since 1928 under the same name, it is the oldest English-language journal with a focus on Asia and the Pacific. It enjoys an international reputation based on the high quality of articles, and its extensive book reviews section.
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