Thursday, October 17, 2019

China’s Policy toward South China Sea Disputes since 2007

The situation in South China Sea has worsened since 2007 as China, the biggest claimant of the disputes, has become more assertive. Beside its usual diplomatic moves, China’s authorities have taken steps to strengthen its administrative management over the South China Sea’s disputed islands, put forward concrete resource exploitation plans in the contested sea, and enforced many measures to ensure the de facto control of the sea inside its U-shaped claim. On the diplomatic front, despite open to some extent to multilateral approach, China has consistently insisted on bilateral negotiations and its proposal of shelving disputes and jointly developing. What makes others startled is that Beijing has published for the first time the nine-dashed line in a map attached to the note to protest the joint report on outer limits on the continental shelves of Vietnam and Malaysia. More striking is that Chinese officials were reported to regard the South China Sea its “core interest”. Although this report was not officially verified, it had not been dismissed by Chinese officials. The rationale behind China’s increasing assertiveness over the last few years is still a myth. Some argue that it is Beijing’s reactions to other claimants’ behaviors. Others hold the view that it represents a non-accidental shift in Beijing’s strategic thinking and policy-making to project its power and create its natural sphere of influence in the context that U.S. power is declining after the financial crisis. Some may guess that Chinese assertiveness is just a move to test the water. However, for whatever reasons, China’s assertiveness and unilateralism in the South China Sea will surely lead to the erosion of trust, and then backslash to spoil its image of peaceful rise in the region and the world at large.

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