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Opinion
 
JONATHAN EYAL, EUROPE CORRESPONDENT

A China power play in choppy waters

An unpredictable US response to Beijing's new-found assertiveness could help calm tensions in the South China Sea.

Published on Jun 9, 2014 12:11 PM
 
-- ST ILLUSTRATION: MIEL

A passing phase or a dangerous and permanent strategic challenge to Asian stability for years to come? That, in a nutshell, is the debate about China's current behaviour in the South China Sea, which appears almost deliberately designed to provoke most of the region's nations.

But even if no categorical answer can be provided to this question, it is clear that China has crossed a fundamental psychological barrier.

Beijing is no longer engaged in just a reactive or theoretical assertion of its rights to territories and waters; China now sets the strategic agenda with pre-emptive actions which create irreversible facts on the ground.

And China will continue doing so unless the United States and its allies - both in Asia and elsewhere - respond in a more coherent manner.

 
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Background story

Beijing is no longer engaged in just a reactive or theoretical assertion of its rights to territories and waters; China now sets the strategic agenda with pre-emptive actions which create irreversible facts on the ground.