Category: South China Sea

Opportunism in the South China Sea?

A number of recent analyses have emphasized that China is seizing pandemic-created opportunities to improve its position in the South China Sea as other countries are distracted or otherwise unable to respond.

A key implication of such claims is that absent the pandemic, China would have acted differently and perhaps with more restraint.

In a new piece for the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage, I argue that China’s actions in the South China Sea so far in 2020 reflect a continuity of its approach to assert historic rights and to challenge the exclusive rights that Malaysia and Vietnam should enjoy in their Exclusive Economic Zones.

Threading the Needle: The South China Sea Disputes and U.S.-China Relations

In a chapter in a recently published edited volume, Strategic Adjustment and the Rise of China, I examine how the United States and China have managed the South China Sea disputes in their relations with each other.

First, actions by the United States and China have often created incentives for the other state to push back, creating negative spirals.

Second, China and the United States have enhanced their positions in the South China Sea.

Third, actions taken by both sides have helped to shield the broader relationship from tensions and competition in the dispute.

Read the chapter here.

U.S. Policy in the South China Sea

I recently published a short policy brief for the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University that examines the evolution of U.S. policy toward the disputes in the South China Sea since 1995.

Here’s the executive summary:

U.S. policy toward the disputes in the South China Sea has four features. First, the United States has altered its policy in response to changes in the level of tensions in the dispute. Second, U.S. policy toward the South China Sea has been premised on the principle of maintaining neutrality regarding the conflicting claims to sovereignty. Third, as its involvement in managing tensions has increased, the United States has emphasised the process and principles by which claims should be pursued more than the final outcome or resolution of the underlying disputes, especially conflict management through the conclusion of a binding code of conduct between ASEAN and China. Fourth, U.S. policy in the South China Sea has sought to shape China’s behaviour in the South China Sea by highlighting the costs of coercion and the pursuit of claims that are inconsistent with customary international law. Looking forward, the involvement of the United States in seeking to manage tensions in the South China Sea is likely to continue so long as the territorial and maritime jurisdictional disputes remain unresolved and states take declaratory steps and operational actions to assert and defend their claims.

Read the full report here.