Sample International Relations Paper on China’s Foreign Policy Analysis


Sovereign states do not exist in a vacuum as they operate and relate with other nations and multinational organizations on the international plane. The relationships and interactions between different states and multinational organizations in the international plane are based on several foreign policy models. Foreign policy approaches, such as the rational actor and bureaucratic politics models, enable sovereign nations to achieve their international goals and objectives effectively through proper decision-making and negotiations. The two foreign policy models, rational actor and bureaucratic politics, are relied upon by the United States of America and China in their international relations, respectively. Foreign policy analysis enables individuals to understand the decision-making frameworks of diverse nations in the international plane, and therefore, fosters international co-operation. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has to develop an expansive foreign policy framework that incorporates both the rational actor and bureaucratic politics approaches utilized by China and the United States to develop strong and beneficial bilateral ties with both superpowers.

Explanation of the First Scenario

The bureaucratic politics model of foreign policy is based on the social theory of bureaucracy developed by philosopher Max Weber in the 19th century. The foreign policy model of bureaucratic politics is grounded on the fundamental holding that divergent actions within a state are undertaken by several independent and competing entities (Yu, 2018). The bureaucratic politics model of foreign policy views the state not as a unitary organization but rather as an amalgamation of divergent entities within the nation (Lieu, 2009). The independent entities bring different values and objectives to the decision-making process as they have divergent personal, national, and international interests. The divergence in objectives and interests of the various entities constituting the state results in a competitive process known as politics (Lieu, 2009). Politics enables the divergent entities to achieve their set objectives and interests by negotiating and bargaining through established avenues in a hierarchical government. Thus, foreign policies based on the bureaucratic model are achieved through internal bargaining and politicking over the interests of individual entities constituting a particular state.

The bureaucratic politics framework applies to China’s foreign policies and international relations. The bureaucratic politics model is pertinent to China due to the central role played by the Communist Party of China (CCP) and other entities in the nation’s foreign policy framework. The Republic of China has several divergent entities with competing interests in the nation’s international relations and foreign policy. The divergent entities that influence China’s international relations include the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee (IDCC), the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the Department of Policy Planning (DPP), the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), and the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), among many others (Lieu, 2009; Yu, 2018). The numerous entities with interests in China’s international relations ensure that the nation’s foreign policies are characterized by intense politicking, negotiations, and concessions. The bureaucratic politics model is suitable for China’s international relations operations as it accommodates the numerous divergent entities of the nation and enables China to benefit from their collective action. However, since the majority of the Chinese entities have overlapping interests and objectives, their coordination is quite challenging (Yu, 2018). This has consequently hampered the smooth implementation of China’s foreign policies.

China’s foreign policies and international relations, compounded with its operations in the international plane, showcase the reliance of the nation on the bureaucratic politics model. The divergent entities that comprise China’s bureaucratic politics framework were drawn into open conflict during the nation’s 2007 anti-satellite missile test (Lieu, 2009). The anti-satellite missile test was conducted by the Chinese military without full consensus from both the CCP’s Politburo and other civilian entities. The anti-satellite missile fired outside China’s territorial boundaries resulted in overt disagreement between the Chinese military and the civilian entities led by the nation’s Politburo as no consensus had been reached over the matter (Lieu, 2009). The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as the One Belt, One Road project, unveiled by Beijing in 2017, also showcases China’s reliance on the bureaucratic politics model in the formulation of its foreign policies. The BRI is intended to expand the socio-economic and political frontiers of China, particularly in Europe and America. The foreign affairs policies regulating the BRI are arrived at through negotiations and consensus of several divergent entities, such as the CCP Politburo, various government ministries, and state departments (Yu, 2018). The numerous entities have divergent interests in the BRI, and this ensures that no bureaucratic entity has supreme authority over others in the decision-making process.

Potential Results of the First Scenario (UAE and China)

The UAE must engage in top-level political bargaining with various Chinese entities to relate with the Republic of China efficiently. China’s foreign policy is based on the bureaucratic politics model, which involves several entities, and therefore, is completely reliant on negotiations and concessions. This makes the process of policymaking in China not only opaque to the public but also slow as it is characterized by numerous red tapes (Yu, 2018). The UAE must engage in top-level political bargaining with the divergent entities that shape China’s foreign policies to deal with these challenges effectively and establish long-lasting and effective bilateral ties with China. The main entities that shape China’s foreign policies include the CCP Politburo, the foreign ministry, IDCC, and DPP (Yu, 2018). The UAE has to negotiate with the top and influential executives of these entities and showcase to them the need for the creation of effective ties between the two nations. The UAE can currently utilize the expansive scope of both the BRI and the Silk Road Initiatives to negotiate with China on the issues of creating stronger bilateral ties. Beijing’s BRI and Silk Road Initiatives are aimed at expanding China’s influence globally through the exportation of Chinese culture into several states internationally.

The UAE can also utilize Chinese interest groups to advocate for better bilateral ties between the two nations. Pre-Cold War China was characterized by overwhelming authoritarianism that suppressed all interest groups that opposed the decisions made by the CCP’s Politburo (Lieu, 2009). The authoritarian government of pre-Cold War China was characterized by the suppression of the freedom of speech and expression. Suppression of freedom of expression and speech was, however, lifted after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong in 1976 and the subsequent leadership of Deng Xiaoping, a pragmatic reformer (Lieu, 2009). The relaxed Chinese government’s infringement on its citizens’ freedom of speech and expression, compounded by the intricacies of the nation’s bureaucratic politics, resulted in the development of several interest groups. Vested interest groups play a significant role in shaping Chinese foreign policies as they have a massive influence on the divergent entities that constitute the nation’s international relations framework, such as the CCP Politburo (Yu, 2018). Since China’s foreign policies are based on the bureaucratic model that requires consensus, the interest groups leverage their influence on the various entities concerned to achieve their objectives. The UAE should, therefore, engage several interest groups in China, particularly those with a massive influence on the nation’s foreign policy, to circumnavigate China’s bureaucratic politics model of policymaking. The use of interest groups will enable the UAE to have more bargaining power, and therefore, increase their chances of creating strong and beneficial ties with China.

Explanation of the Second Scenario

The rational actor model is grounded on the rational choice theory of political and social behavior. The rational actor approach to foreign policy is founded on numerous economics and political philosophy ideas that seek to maximize gains on interests using reason (Lebow & Stein, 2019). The rational actor model is based on the premise that the state is a unitary actor that utilizes informed, rational, and calculated decisions to inform its foreign policies and relations (Lebow & Stein, 2019). Besides, the framework is grounded on the assumption that policymakers have access to relevant information and actions implemented throughout time are not only consistent but also coherent (Lebow & Stein, 2019). The rational actor model enables individuals to understand the relation between a nation’s goals and interests and foreign policies. Moreover, the framework relies on the ability of a rational actor to identify a foreign policy issue, identify possible alternatives and their consequences, and make a reasonable choice from these alternatives to maximize satisfaction (Lebow & Stein, 2019). The model’s reliance on rationality through quantifiable information and implementation of activities over the long-term makes it suitable for the analysis of political behavior and foreign policy in the international plane.

In practice, the rational actor model involves several steps that ensure that states maximize their gains from their foreign policies. The rational actor model encompasses four steps: identification of the foreign policy problem, definition of desired outcomes or interests, evaluation of the possible consequences of potential policy choice, and making a final decision that will maximize the desired outcomes (Lebow & Stein, 2019). The four steps enable states to identify the foreign problem they are facing and how best they can deal with the issue. Moreover, the rational actor model enables a given state to research possible alternatives for tackling a foreign policy issue. This enables the state to choose and stick to the most appropriate and effective approach that will enable it to maximize its desired interests. The four steps of the rational actor model enable states to avoid taking extreme foreign policy initiatives characterized by negative consequences, such as war (Lebow & Stein, 2019). Therefore, the rational actor model of policymaking has contributed to the peaceful existence of several nations in the 21st century.

The rational actor model of foreign policymaking is relevant to the United States of America, which is quite concerned with maximizing its international interests. The U.S. relies on the rational actor model in the formulation of its foreign policies and the implementation of its international activities and programs (Lebow & Stein, 2019). The U.S. has numerous international interests ranging from military to economic undertakings scattered across the globe. America has invested in several modern forms of technology and approaches that enable it to get firsthand data and information on its divergent interests to maximize the gain on its undertakings globally (Lebow & Stein, 2019). The rational actor model enables various government departments and specialized agencies of the U.S. to collect and analyze information pertinent to the nation’s foreign interests and policies. America also has several professional foreign policy institutions and think-tanks that perform research on the nation’s interests and provide appropriate policy suggestions. This enables the U.S. to maximize the gains of its desired international interests by enacting relevant foreign policies.

Numerous international activities of the United States of America have showcased the nation’s reliance on the rational actor model of foreign policy. In 2003, during the reign of President George Bush, America utilized the rational actor model to invade Iraq (Lebow & Stein, 2019). Using the rational actor approach, America identified the terrorism threat Iraq’s Saddam Hussein’s regime posed to the nation’s domestic security interests. Using verified intelligence reports that Saddam’s regime had been funding Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda terrorist organization, America opted for a military invasion of Iraq (Lebow & Stein, 2019). America’s invasion of Iraq was aimed at the replacement of Saddam’s authoritarian government with a democratic government (Lebow & Stein, 2019). Using the rational actor model, America reasoned that a democratic Iraq would be the best alternative for ensuring long-lasting peace and stability in America.

The current War on Terror policy adopted by the United States’ government is informed by the nation’s reliance on the rational actor model of foreign policy. By constantly fighting terrorists globally, America can guarantee the peace and security of its internal borders and citizens. Based on the rational actor model, America’s war on terror provides the best solution to the nation’s security challenges as it prevents terrorist activities from being conducted on American soil.

Potential Results of the Second Scenario (UAE and the USA)

The UAE has to exploit America’s desire to derive maximum benefit from its interests to create strong and productive bilateral ties with America. America’s foreign policies are always tied around the nation’s interests due to their reliance on the rational actor model of policymaking (Lebow & Stein, 2019). Therefore, America will only create strong and mutual bilateral ties with nations they believe will aid and expand their socio-economic and political resources (Lebow & Stein, 2019). America is interested in several global issues ranging from international security, energy, environmental conservation, climate change, and trade. Thus, the UAE has to analyze and decide on specific areas of interest upon which they can base their bilateral relations with the U.S. For example, the UAE has massive deposits of oil that it can leverage as a trading item to create long-lasting and mutually beneficial bilateral ties and relations with the U.S. Moreover, the UAE can leverage its location in Western Asia to create strong bilateral ties with America. Several nations close to the UAE, such as Iran and Iraq, are inundated by terrorism cells, which is a huge threat to international security. The UAE can leverage its prime location to partner with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism in the region. Based on the rational actor model, a partnership between the UAE and America for purposes of fighting terrorism will be in perfect alignment to America’s foreign policy of war on terrorism.

The UAE can also utilize direct lobbying of the American government to improve the relations between the two nations. Lobbying is both an essential and effective mechanism for influencing the foreign policies of the American government (Lebow & Stein, 2019). The American government has changed its foreign policy several times due to lobbying by both sovereign states and international organizations. For example, through intensive lobbying, Israel has continuously improved its bilateral relations with America (Lebow & Stein, 2019). Since the American government bases all foreign policies on the rational actor framework, effective lobbying by the UAE government can strengthen the bilateral relations between the two nations. Through lobbying, the UAE government can convince the American government on why strong bilateral relations between the two nations will enable America to achieve and maximize its foreign interests. Moreover, through lobbying, the UAE can negotiate the desired scope of the bilateral relations between the two countries. This will ensure that the bilateral ties between America and the UAE are mutually beneficial and not imperialistic.

How the International System Looks to You?

I believe that the international system is based on the idealism school of thought. The idealism school of thought, which was first developed in the late 19th century, is based on the analogy that the nation-state is the microcosm of the international system (Carr, 2017). Therefore, the idealism theory of international relations espouses that a sovereign nation should make its domestic political philosophy the objectives of its rhetoric and conduct in the international plane (Carr, 2017). For example, if the UAE is domestically interested in preserving its national security, it should focus on advocating global peace and security in the international plane. The idealism school of thought was best applied by former American leader President Woodrow Wilson, who globally advocated for and promoted the implementation of democracy, a fundamental American political philosophy (Carr, 2017). Idealism holds that sovereign nations are rational actors, and therefore, capable of promoting lasting peace and security through the avoidance of war.

The idealism school of thought is promoted in the contemporary domain of international relations by several international organizations, such as the United Nations. International organizations, such as the United Nations and International Monetary Fund, were developed to promote ideal political philosophies, such as democracy and the fight against economic inequality and poverty (Carr, 2017). The international organizations currently play a huge role in the global community of nations and have helped enforce several ideal socio-economic and political philosophies throughout the world. Through idealism, human liberties and freedoms have been upheld globally as the theory promotes not only democracy but also the rule of law.

Conclusion and Recommendations for the UAE

Sovereign nations utilize divergent foreign policy frameworks in their international relations and activities. America and China, both superpowers, utilize the rational actor and the bureaucratic politics models as their foreign policy frameworks, respectively. The rational actor model espouses that nations are rational beings who make objective decisions intending to maximize gains from their interests. The bureaucratic model, however, holds that nations are composed of divergent entities with competing interests, and thus foreign policies can only be achieved through consensus. I recommend that the UAE utilizes high-level bargaining coupled with the use of pressure groups with the various entities that develop China’s foreign policies to create strong bilateral relations with China. The UAE has to offer valuable partnerships that maximize American interests and lobby the American government to enact favorable foreign policies that regulate its operations in UAE to improve its relations with America.




Carr, E. H. (2017). Reading 2.4 Realism and Idealism. In Conflict after the Cold War (pp. 84-101). Routledge.

Lebow, R. N., & Stein, J. G. (2019). Afghanistan, Carter, and foreign policy change: The limits of cognitive models. In Diplomacy, force, and leadership (pp. 95-127). Routledge.

Lieu, C. S. (2009). Bureaucratic politics and overseas investment by Chinese state-owned oil companies: Illusory champions. Asian Survey49(4), 670-690.

Yu, J. (2018). The belt and road initiative: domestic interests, bureaucratic politics, and the EU-China relations. Asia Europe Journal16(3), 223-236.