IAS Speaker Series: Prof. Andy Mertha

"Constraining China’s International Influence: Lessons from History of the Sino-Cambodian Relationship, 1975-1979"

China’s continued rise to prominence in the international arena remains a popular talking point among scholars, policymakers, and pundits.  But in assigning such a role, are we possibly assigning too much power and unfettered agency to Beijing’s policymaking elite?  In this talk, I argue that China has been – and continues to be – beholden to its domestic institutional weaknesses in its exercise of foreign policy.  This perspective is rarely discussed but remains an important lens through which to understand China’s actions in the global arena.  I illustrate this dynamic through the historical case of China’s relations with the genocidal Khmer Rouge when they ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. 

Andrew Mertha is Professor of Government at Cornell University.  He is the author of three books, The Politics of Piracy: Intellectual Property in Contemporary China (2005); China's Water Warriors: Citizen Action and Policy Change (2008); and Brothers in Arms: Chinese Foreign Assistance to the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979 (2014), all with Cornell University Press.  He has articles published in Comparative Politics, International Organization, and The China Quarterly.  He is the former director of the China and Asia-Pacific Studies (CAPS) program at Cornell and is currently the president of the Center for Khmer Studies, the only American Overseas Research Center in mainland Southeast Asia.  He speaks Mandarin Chinese, Hungarian, French, and Khmer and lived in China for seven years.