Thoughts from the Chairman: Decoding China's Harder Line on the South China Sea
August 28, 2012
FEATURED ESSAY: Decoding China's Harder Line on the South China Sea
By Christopher Johnson
China this summer has put the world on notice that it means business on defending its sovereignty in the South China Sea. It followed up a tense and lengthy standoff with the Philippines over Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal) by using the bluntest of instruments—its leverage over Cambodia—to signal displeasure with its Southeast Asian neighbors during last month’s ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). In the wake of those episodes, the region and the United States watched and waited to see whether China would, as it has before, press the reset button on its approach to the South China Sea and adopt a more conciliatory stance. Instead, Beijing has seemingly doubled down with the establishment of Sansha municipality and its accompanying military garrison, a propaganda offensive in state media warning against “foreign interference” in the South China Sea, and fresh utterances referring to the sea as being among China’s “core interests.” These actions have prompted official criticism from Washington, raising the temperature in the dispute still further. So what is going on, and how should we interpret Beijing’s latest steps? Recent press articles, citing knowledgeable Chinese insiders, have speculated that the moves represent a formal consensus among the top leadership to adopt a tougher approach. (Continued)
CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies senior fellow Bonnie Glaser and CSIS Japan Chair Michael Green discuss what Taiwanese president Ma Ying-Jeou's re-election means for cross-Strait relations.
CSIS Freeman Chair Chris Johnson explains the impact of Bo Xilai's ouster on the Chinese leadership.