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(Opinion) Will China Change its South China Sea Approach in 2015?

2015-01-08 08:57:31       source:The Diplomat

By Prashanth Parameswaran

January 08, 2015

"Given the litany of surprises we have witnessed in the South China Sea over the past few years, it would be a fool's errand to make grand predictions about what we might see in 2015. Nonetheless, there has been a flurry of discussions over the past few months among the chattering classes about whether we are likely to see a change in China's approach to the South China Sea in 2015, and the implications that would have for Southeast Asia and beyond. It is worth briefly considering whether this may indeed occur and what it would signify.

Since Xi Jinping's ascension to power, we have witnessed China employ what I would call a strategy of "incremental assertiveness" in the South China Sea. That incremental strategy approach has two parts, often pursued together in a calibrated manner. The first part is to change facts on the water in China's favor where possible to advance its claims as set out in the infamous nine-dash line. The range of activities could range from land reclamation activities in the Spratlys to outright seizures of features as occurred before with the Scarborough Shoal. But the real emphasis here is on working incrementally, such that no single action is egregious enough to draw the United States into a conflict or unite ASEAN claimants with Washington against Beijing, but all of them combine to shore up China's position further down the line."

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