The Impact of Multinational Transboundary Infrastructures (MTIs) on the Relational Power of Small States: a case study of Laos

Giovannini, Gabriele (2017) The Impact of Multinational Transboundary Infrastructures (MTIs) on the Relational Power of Small States: a case study of Laos. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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The International Relations (IR) literature has been dominated by studies on great powers, often neglecting the role of small states. Moreover, the accounts on small states have generally overlooked the role of geography. This thesis proposes an analytical framework to observe the role of geography by observing the impact of Multinational Transboundary Infrastructures (MTIs) on the relational power of small states. The framework is then applied to the case study of Laos observing the impact of two selected MTIs – the Xayaburi dam and the Boten-Vientiane high-speed railway – on Laos’s relational power with respect to Vietnam and China.

Data has been collected through a set of 48 semi-structured qualitative elite interviews mainly carried out during a period of fieldwork in Laos in 2015. The data generated by the interviews, triangulated with other primary and secondary sources, enabled a process tracing analysis of the two negotiation processes on the selected MTIs. The findings show that the two observed MTIs positively affected the relational power of Laos despite the asymmetry that shapes its bilateral relationships with both Vietnam and China in terms of capabilities. The case study therefore indicates that a central geographic position could reduce asymmetries of power and that relational power manifest a greater explanatory capacity than power-as-capabilities.

This thesis contributes to knowledge adding empirical material on the diplomatic negotiation on the Xayaburi dam; on the Boten–Vientiane high-speed railway; on Laos’s international relations with Vietnam and China; and on China’s High-Speed Railway Diplomacy. The thesis contributes also to the theoretical literature by identifying a geographic gap in small states studies. Analytically, the thesis contributes developing the concept of MTIs and an original analytical framework to study relational power. Finally, methodologically the thesis provides new insights on how to gain access to elites in Laos.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: China, Vietnam, Thailand, Hydropower, dams, hydrohegemony, Mekong River, Mekong Region, Mekong Basin, China-Laos high-speed railway
Subjects: L200 Politics
T100 Chinese studies
T400 Other Asian studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2018 10:32
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2022 10:00

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