Market Power Politics: Economic Competition, Institutions, and Territorial Conflict (with Mark Crescenzi)

The recent resurgence of territorial ambition in the global arena is marked by economic ambition. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and China’s continued push to gain control of islands in the South China Sea typify this expansionist behavior. The desire for territory has historically been identified as one of the predominant causes of war between countries. However, these expansionist activities by Russia and China have not escalated to major armed conflict. Instead, these disputes remain in a “gray zone” between conflict and war. What accounts for this pattern? How can we differentiate between these outcomes and the full-scale war launched by Iraq against Kuwait in 1990 and the response by the United States and the Gulf War Coalition?

In this book, we solve this puzzle by providing a novel theory of economic competition and territorial conflict to explain why states sometimes opt for strategic delay over cooperation or war. Through case studies of Iraq, Russia, and China, we illustrate how this theory helps us to understand the varying expansionist strategies pursued by these states. This research contributes to our understanding of the complex relationship between economics and war, the role of institutional design in dispute settlement, and the strategic use of gray zone tactics in territorial disputes.