, Volume 92, Number 4

Zhou Fangyin
Since 2010, there has been obvious escalation of tensions in the South China Sea, coinciding with China’s rise and the United States’ ‘pivot’ to Asia. Has China become more aggressive in its approach to the South China Sea? What strategic goal is China is pursuing in this area? Where does the South China Sea rank in China’s overall foreign policy agenda? This article addresses these issues from the Chinese perspective. In the first part, the article discusses China’s changing strategy and the leadership’s thinking behind the changes. In the second part, it examines in detail several incidents involving China in the South China Sea, including confrontations with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal and the Second Thomas Shoal and China’s more recent land reclamation. The article argues that China’s strategic goal in the South China Sea is a relatively modest one. The South China Sea disputes do not rank particularly highly among China’s strategic priorities. To a great extent the handling of these issues is also subject to the dynamics of the overall relationship between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

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