China’s New Wave of Aggressive Assertiveness in the South China Sea

A Draft from the South China Sea Papers

This paper assesses recent developments affecting the security of the South China Sea in the first half of 2011. The author has discussed earlier developments in several conference papers that cover developments from 2007 until the end of 2010.

By October 2010 the tensions that had arisen earlier in the year over territorial disputes in the South China Sea appeared to have abated. China resumed military‐to‐military contacts with the United States. China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) revived the moribund Joint Working Group to Implement the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). These and other development led the author to conclude that there were grounds for cautious optimism that some progress could be made in managing South China Sea tensions.2 This assessment appeared to be borne out by testimony in April 2011 given by Admiral Robert Willard, Commander U.S. Pacific Command, that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had adopted a less aggressive stance in the Pacific.

Carlyle A. Thayer