Comparative Connections v.18 n.2 - China-Southeast Asia
September 13, 2016
Tensions over South China Sea territorial disputes dominated relations throughout the summer months of 2016. Fearing that the UNCLOS Tribunal case would go against China, Beijing took remedial steps in the lead-up to the July 12 ruling to show resolve to domestic Chinese constituencies and to counter international pressures. With the Tribunal’s award even more negative for China than most anticipated, Beijing’s attacks on the arbitral panel and warnings to neighbors and the US intensified. They were accompanied by shows of force in the South China Sea. Given the restraint of others, Chinese officials and commentary also moderated their rhetoric. Whether the Chinese shift to moderation was tactical or strategic remains to be seen.