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By Yun Sun

China's calculated coercive moves

Why is China so assertive in the South China Sea? Simple: Coercion works and China can get away with it.

Published on Jun 20, 2014 1:15 PM
An officer of the Vietnamese marine guard monitoring a Chinese coast guard vessel in the South China Sea, about 210km off the coast of Vietnam. China is determined to uphold the country's controversial "nine-dashed line". -- PHOTO: REUTERS

In recent months, China's unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea have driven regional tensions to a new high.

China's well-calculated moves are motivated by multiple internal and external factors. These include boosting President Xi Jinping's prestige and authority for his domestic reform agenda, along with an assumption that the United States is extremely unlikely to intervene at this moment in time.

Other than the overt actions to assert China's claims in the South China Sea, official statements and legal studies analysis from within China also reflect a recalibrated determination to uphold the country's controversial "nine-dashed line" in the South China Sea.

From a Chinese perspective, the most transparent and direct explanation of China's rising assertiveness in the South China Sea is simple: China believes that its past unilateral restraint has done nothing to improve China's position regarding South China Sea disputes and these inactions have, in fact, resulted in other claimant countries strengthening their presence and claims.

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Background story

China has other ways - mainly economic - to improve ties with South-east Asia while its claims in the South China Sea can hardly be achieved through any method other than coercion.


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