China

Diverging Paths? Singapore-China Relations and the East Asian Maritime Domain

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Singapore and China are experiencing an unprecedented period of friction in their usually calm bilateral relations. Much of the divergence is over issues relating to the South China Sea, despite the fact that Singapore is not party to the sovereignty disputes. In particular, the two sides differ in their interpretations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and over regarding China’s reclamation of features in the South China Sea. Behind these differences lie divergent perspectives on the existing international order, international law, the management of maritime issues, and Singapore’s strategic partnership with the United States.… Read More »Diverging Paths? Singapore-China Relations and the East Asian Maritime Domain

Anatomy of the Code of Conduct Framework for the South China Sea

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In Manila on August 6, 2017, the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China endorsed a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea (CoC). The framework had earlier been approved by senior officials from ASEAN and China at a meeting in Guiyang, China, on May 19. Statements by the two sides were broadly welcoming of the framework. In their joint communiqué—which was delayed for nearly 24 hours due to differences between some member states on how the South China Sea dispute should be characterized—the ASEAN foreign ministers said they were “encouraged”… Read More »Anatomy of the Code of Conduct Framework for the South China Sea

Traditional Fishing Grounds and China’s Historic Rights Claims in the South China Sea

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In the past four months, three confrontations have occurred between China and Indonesia over the presence of Chinese fishing vessels in waters near Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. By compelling Jakarta to adopt a more active approach to defending its waters from Chinese encroachment, these incidents may transform the dynamics of the South China Sea disputes. Equally importantly, however, statements by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) regarding these incidents provide clues about the content of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. Specifically, China appears to be moving toward justifying some of its claims in terms of historic rights, not… Read More »Traditional Fishing Grounds and China’s Historic Rights Claims in the South China Sea

Perspectives on the South China Sea Dispute in 2018

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In 2017, China strengthened its position in the South China Sea dispute in at least five ways. First, it expanded its construction activities on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly Islands and on North, Tree, and Triton Islands in the Paracel Islands. Since 2014, China has added a total of 290,000 square meters, or 72 acres, of new landmass. The expansion of artificial islands has reinforced its overall ability to control the South China Sea—for example, by allowing for the deployment of fighter jets in the region. For this reason, Xi Jinping praised this achievement as a… Read More »Perspectives on the South China Sea Dispute in 2018

Asia Policy Roundtable: India and China at Sea

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The July 2016 issue of Asia Policy, a peer-reviewed and policy-relevant academic journal published by the National Bureau of Asian Research, features a roundtable on “India and China at Sea: A Contest of Status and Legitimacy in the Indian Ocean.” David Brewster, You Ji, Zhu Li, Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Abhijit Singh, Raja Menon, Darshana M. Baruah, John W. Garver, and Rory Medcalf contributed to the conversation on these two critical naval powers’ interests and roles. India and China at Sea: A Contest of Status and Legitimacy in the Indian Ocean David Brewster China’s Emerging Indo-Pacific Naval Strategy You Ji The Maritime Silk Road… Read More »Asia Policy Roundtable: India and China at Sea

Chinese icebreaker, Xuelong

China’s New Arctic Policy: Legal Questions and Practical Challenges

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This article expands on the discussion of shipping-related issues in a report by the Institute for China-America Studies, “China’s Interests in the Arctic: Opportunities and Challenges” (March 2018). China issued its first official Arctic policy in a white paper published on January 26, 2018. The Chinese media and academics were truly thrilled—both by the content of the policy and by the fact that it had been formalized and published—and reacted immediately with overwhelmingly positive reporting and analysis. Meanwhile, the international community, especially the Arctic states, quickly added their views on the white paper. Of the Arctic five (the five states… Read More »China’s New Arctic Policy: Legal Questions and Practical Challenges

Vietnam Benefits from the South China Sea Arbitration

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Although Vietnam did not intercede in the July 12 Philippines-China arbitration, nonetheless it now finds itself on the right side of the facts and the law in its disputes with China over maritime rights in the South China Sea. The disputes in the South China Sea concern two sets of issues. The tribunal did not have legal competence to decide the first set, which covers questions of ownership over the islands that dot the seascape. These include the Paracel Islands, occupied by China, but claimed by Vietnam, as well as the Spratly Islands that were the subject of the arbitration.… Read More »Vietnam Benefits from the South China Sea Arbitration

China-Russia Naval Cooperation in East Asia: Implications for Japan

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During the evening of June 8, 2016, three Russian naval vessels, including a destroyer, entered the contiguous zone around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Shortly afterward, a Chinese frigate also entered the area and proceeded toward the Russian ships, as if intending to meet with them. This represented the first instance of a Chinese military vessel entering the contiguous zone around the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by China as the Diaoyu Islands. Just as worrying, it appeared to show that Russia, which officially remains neutral with regard to the territorial dispute, had begun to coordinate… Read More »China-Russia Naval Cooperation in East Asia: Implications for Japan

The Award Decision in the Philippines-China Arbitration Case: A Perspective from Malaysia

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In the last decade, many countries in Southeast Asia have formulated new policies in response to the changing strategic environment shaped by the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific, including in the South China Sea. In particular, the final award in the arbitration proceedings in The Hague on July 12, 2016, marked a historical event that has new and major implications for the Asia-Pacific. Despite the importance of the recent ruling, however, Malaysia’s approach to the South China Sea dispute, as outlined below, has remained constant. As a pivotal, nonaligned country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with… Read More »The Award Decision in the Philippines-China Arbitration Case: A Perspective from Malaysia

Maritime and Sovereignty Disputes in the East China Sea

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The East China Sea has been described by some experts as a potential “flashpoint” of interstate conflict and great-power rivalry and a source of regional destabilization.[1] Much attention has focused on military activities in this maritime theater, primarily involving Japan, China, and South Korea. In contrast, this essay focuses on the complex maritime and sovereignty claims of Northeast Asian states in the East China Sea and unpacks the differing legal principles they use to support their claims in order to understand the enduring nature of the conflicts. These disputes are challenging precisely because they involve contests over both territorial sovereignty… Read More »Maritime and Sovereignty Disputes in the East China Sea