September 22, 2021

Much work has examined the phenomenon of dispute escalation, whereby the concrete measures state actors take edge them closer to war. Less attention has been devoted to the ways in which state actors’ perceptions of what is at stake in a dispute can also change, with important consequences for the likelihood of conflict. This paper examines the phenomenon of dispute inflation – wherein a contest over an object or issue assumes ever greater stakes and significance for its protagonists – and identifies three different mechanisms that can generate increasing non-material stakes. The upshot is that theoretically even a minor dispute can grow into a major conflict due to swelling stakes, especially when dispute inflation spirals. To illustrate these dynamics at work, this paper looks to recent developments in the dispute between the People’s Republic of China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

Keywords 

Emotionsdispute escalationpower transitionssecurity dilemmaspiralsterritorial disputesSino-Japanese relationsSenkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/13540661211045112. https://doi.org/10.1177/13540661211045112First Published September 22, 2021


Todd H Hall CWP China Oxford Headshot

Prof Hall earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2008 and has held postdoctoral fellowships at Princeton and Harvard, as well as visiting scholar appointments at the Free University of Berlin, Tsinghua University in Beijing, and the University of Tokyo. Prior to joining the University of Oxford, Prof Hall held the position of Assistant Professor in Political Science at the University of Toronto (2010-2013). Research interests extend to the areas of international relations theory; the intersection of emotion, affect, and foreign policy; and Chinese foreign policy. Recent publications include articles in International OrganizationInternational SecurityInternational Studies Quarterly, International Studies Review, Political Psychology, Political Science Quarterly, and Security Studies. Prof Hall has also published a book with Cornell University Press, titled Emotional Diplomacy: Official Emotion on the International Stage, which was recently named co-recipient of the International Studies Association's 2016 Diplomatic Studies Section Book Award.


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