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Thayer South China Sea: China Versus the Rest

Thayer South China Sea: China Versus the Rest

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An analysis of China's strategy towards asserting sovereignty over the South China Sea and the implications for regional states and the major powers.
An analysis of China's strategy towards asserting sovereignty over the South China Sea and the implications for regional states and the major powers.

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Jun 06, 2011
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06/06/2011

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Background Briefing:South China Sea: Chinaversus The RestCarlyle A. ThayerJune 4, 2011
[client
 
name
 
deleted]
 
Q1.
 
Do
 
the
 
recent
 
incidents
 
in
 
the
 
Exclusive
 
Economic
 
Zones
 
of 
 
the
 
Philippines
 
and
 
Vietnam
 
form
 
part
 
of 
 
a
 
larger
 
Chinese
 
strategy,
 
as
 
a
 
rising
 
power,
 
towards
 
Southeast
 
Asia?
 
ANSWER:
 
China
 
seeks
 
to
 
achieve
 
major
 
power
 
status
 
in
 
the
 
Asia
Pacific.
 
It
 
has
 
set
 
its
 
priority
 
on
 
reunification
 
with
 
Taiwan
 
and
 
recognition
 
of 
 
its
 
“indisputable
 
sovereignty”
 
over
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea.
 
China’s
 
comprehensive
 
national
 
power
 
is
 
based
 
mainly
 
on
 
its
 
economic
 
strength.
 
In
 
order
 
to
 
keep
 
up
 
the
 
pace
 
of 
 
economic
 
growth
 
China
 
will
 
become
 
increasingly
 
dependent
 
on
 
imported
 
source
 
of 
 
energy
 
 –
 
oil
 
and
 
gas.
 
Chinese
 
officials
 
consistently
 
provide
 
estimates
 
of 
 
the
 
amount
 
of 
 
oil
 
and
 
gas
 
reserves
 
in
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
that
 
far
 
exceed
 
estimates
 
by
 
western
 
oil
 
companies
 
and
 
governments.
 
China
 
therefore
 
seeks
 
to
 
control
 
these
 
resources
 
because
 
they
 
are
 
abundant
 
and
 
closer
 
to
 
home
 
than
 
oil
 
from
 
the
 
Middle
 
East.
 
The
 
Chinese
 
navy
 
can
 
also
 
protect
 
the
 
sea
 
routes
 
over
 
which
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
oil
 
must
 
be
 
carried.
 
In
 
other
 
words,
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
forms
 
one
 
part
 
of 
 
a
 
larger
 
effort
 
by
 
China
 
to
 
secure
 
energy
 
supplies
 
around
 
the
 
world
 
in
 
order
 
to
 
fuel
 
its
 
high
 
economic
 
rates.
 
China’s
 
claim
 
to
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
is
 
based
 
on
 
its
 
nine
 
dash
 
line
 
u
shaped
 
map.
 
China’s
 
dash
 
lines
 
cut
 
into
 
the
 
EEZs
 
declared
 
by
 
the
 
Philippines
 
and
 
Vietnam.
 
China
 
does
 
not
 
recognize
 
their
 
sovereignty
 
when
 
there
 
is
 
an
 
overlap.
 
China
 
also
 
views
 
the
 
oil
 
and
 
gas
 
exploration
 
and
 
production
 
activities
 
by
 
the
 
Philippines
 
and
 
Vietnam
 
as
 
siphoning
 
off 
 
Chinese
 
natural
 
resources
 
and
 
a
 
violation
 
of 
 
its
 
sovereignty.
 
Q2.
 
How
 
does
 
the
 
strategic
 
competition
 
between
 
China
 
and
 
US
 
affect
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
issue?
 
ANSWER:
 
The
 
strategic
 
competition
 
between
 
China
 
and
 
the
 
United
 
States
 
is
 
mainly
 
centered
 
on
 
their
 
respective
 
roles
 
in
 
Asia
Pacific.
 
China
 
views
 
the
 
U.S.
 
as
 
an
 
outside
 
power.
 
China
 
is
 
particularly
 
concerned
 
about
 
U.S.
 
naval
 
dominance
 
in
 
the
 
Western
 
Pacific,
 
particularly
 
U.S.
 
support
 
for
 
Taiwan.
 
The
 
two
 
differ
 
on
 
how
 
international
 
law
 
should
 
be
 
applied
 
to
 
Exclusive
 
Economic
 
Zones.
 
The
 
U.S.
 
argues
 
the
 
UN
 
Convention
 
on
 
Law
 
of 
 
the
 
Sea
 
permits
 
military
 
ships
 
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
 
2
to
 
transit
 
and
 
conduct
 
surveys.
 
China
 
insists
 
that
 
its
 
domestic
 
laws
 
restricting
 
such
 
activity
 
are
 
permissible
 
under
 
international
 
law.
 
The
 
U.S.
 
continually
 
conducts
 
surveillance
 
missions
 
in
 
China’s
 
EEZ
 
and
 
China
 
responds
 
by
 
various
 
forms
 
of 
 
harassment.
 
The
 
U.S.
 
does
 
not
 
take
 
sides
 
on
 
territorial
 
dispute
 
in
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea.
 
A
 
country
 
that
 
borders
 
the
 
sea
 
may
 
claim
 
a
 
200
 
nautical
 
mile
 
EEZ.
 
That
 
gives
 
the
 
state
 
sovereignty
 
over
 
the
 
resources
 
in
 
the
 
EEZ.
 
The
 
U.S.
 
rejects
 
claims
 
to
 
maritime
 
territory
 
that
 
is
 
not
 
based
 
on
 
land.
 
It
 
therefore
 
rejects
 
the
 
basis
 
of 
 
Chinese
 
claims
 
to
 
“indisputable
 
sovereignty.”
 
The
 
U.S.
 
is
 
concerned
 
with
 
safety
 
and
 
freedom
 
of 
 
navigation
 
in
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea.
 
China
 
is
 
not
 
directly
 
threatening
 
these
 
interests.
 
The
 
U.S.
 
has
 
an
 
interest
 
in
 
preventing
 
any
 
one
 
country
 
 –
 
China
 
for
 
example
 
 –
 
from
 
exercising
 
hegemony
 
over
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea.
 
U.S.
China
 
rivalry
 
therefore
 
impacts
 
on
 
each
 
state
 
in
 
Southeast
 
Asia
 
and
 
its
 
relations
 
with
 
the
 
major
 
powers.
 
China
 
seeks
 
to
 
undermine
 
U.S.
 
alliances
 
with
 
the
 
Philippines
 
and
 
Thailand.
 
China
 
also
 
seeks
 
to
 
undermine
 
U.S.
 
political
 
influence.
 
The
 
U.S.
 
seeks
 
to
 
prevent
 
the
 
erosion
 
of 
 
its
 
political
 
influence.
 
Q3.
 
Will
 
the
 
flashpoints
 
in
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
lead
 
to
 
armed
 
violence?
 
What
 
can
 
be
 
done
 
to
 
prevent
 
this?
 
ANSWER:
 
An
 
armed
 
incident
 
between
 
the
 
naval
 
vessels
 
of 
 
two
 
states
 
is
 
always
 
possible;
 
but
 
it
 
is
 
unlikely
 
to
 
escalate
 
into
 
armed
 
conflict.
 
Incidents
 
at
 
sea
 
are
 
easier
 
to
 
contain
 
than
 
along
 
land
 
borders
 
because
 
they
 
are
 
more
 
isolated
 
and
 
involve
 
fewer
 
forces.
 
The
 
best
 
way
 
to
 
prevent
 
friction
 
and
 
tensions
 
from
 
erupting
 
into
 
violence
 
is
 
to
 
get
 
all
 
the
 
navies
 
concerned
 
to
 
negotiate
 
an
 
incidents
 
at
 
sea
 
agreement.
 
This
 
would
 
be
 
a
 
code
 
that
 
would
 
regulate
 
how
 
warships
 
should
 
behave
 
when
 
they
 
encounter
 
each
 
other.
 
Such
 
an
 
agreement
 
should
 
be
 
accompanied
 
by
 
mechanisms
 
that
 
could
 
be
 
used
 
if 
 
violence
 
erupts
 
 –
 
hot
 
lines,
 
crisis
 
management
 
committees
 
etc.
 
Q4.
 
What
 
are
 
the
 
roles
 
of 
 
ASEAN,
 
each
 
ASEAN
 
member,
 
the
 
US,
 
and
 
China?
 
ANSWER:
 
ASEAN
 
has
 
issued
 
two
 
declarations
 
of 
 
concern
 
in
 
response
 
to
 
Chinese
instigated
 
friction.
 
The
 
first
 
was
 
issued
 
in
 
1992
 
and
 
the
 
second
 
in
 
1995
 
following
 
the
 
Mischief 
 
Reef 
 
incident.
 
In
 
2002
 
ASEAN
 
also
 
negotiated
 
a
 
Declaration
 
on
 
Conduct
 
of 
 
Parties
 
in
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
(DOC)
 
with
 
China.
 
ASEAN
 
has
 
also
 
adopted
 
a
 
Treaty
 
of 
 
Amity
 
and
 
Cooperation
 
which
 
has
 
been
 
signed
 
by
 
China,
 
the
 
United
 
States
 
and
 
other
 
major
 
powers.
 
This
 
treaty
 
enjoins
 
its
 
signatories
 
from
 
threatening
 
or
 
using
 
force
 
in
 
their
 
relations.
 
ASEAN’s
 
role
 
is
 
to
 
maintain
 
its
 
autonomy
 
over
 
Southeast
 
Asia
 
and
 
its
 
waters
 
from
 
intervention
 
by
 
major
 
powers.
 
ASEAN
 
should
 
present
 
a
 
united
 
front
 
to
 
major
 
powers
 
such
 
as
 
China
 
on
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea.
 
ASEAN
 
also
 
has
 
a
 
special
 
role
 
under
 
the
 
UN
 
Charter
 
as
 
a
 
regional
 
association.
 
Under
 
the
 
Charter
 
it
 
has
 
responsibility
 
for
 
acting
 
when
 
conflict
 
breaks
 
out.
 
ASEAN
 
should
 
therefore
 
directly
 
discuss
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
with
 
China
 
and
 
if 
 
violence
 
continues,
 
report
 
the
 
matter
 
to
 
the
 
UN
 
Security
 
Council.
 
 
3
Each
 
ASEAN
 
member
 
has
 
a
 
different
 
set
 
of 
 
bilateral
 
relations
 
with
 
China.
 
But
 
on
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
only
 
four
 
members
 
did
 
not
 
raise
 
this
 
issue
 
at
 
the
 
17
th
 
ASEAN
 
Regional
 
Forum
 
meeting
 
in
 
July
 
last
 
year:
 
Myanmar,
 
Thailand,
 
Laos
 
and
 
Cambodia.
 
Each
 
of 
 
these
 
countries
 
has
 
strong
 
economic
 
links
 
to
 
China.
 
Brunei’s
 
case
 
is
 
not
 
clear.
 
But
 
those
 
states
 
with
 
a
 
direct
 
interest
 
in
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
 –
 
Indonesia,
 
Malaysia,
 
the
 
Philippines,
 
Singapore
 
and
 
Vietnam
 
 –
 
all
 
raised
 
the
 
issue.
 
They
 
want
 
the
 
U.S.
 
to
 
remain
 
engaged
 
to
 
balance
 
China.
 
And
 
they
 
want
 
ASEAN
 
to
 
maintain
 
a
 
united
 
front
 
in
 
its
 
dealings
 
with
 
China.
 
The
 
U.S.
 
role
 
is
 
to
 
contribute
 
to
 
regional
 
order
 
by
 
maintaining
 
the
 
status
 
quo
 
and
 
providing
 
diplomatic
 
support
 
to
 
countries
 
that
 
come
 
under
 
Chinese
 
pressure.
 
The
 
U.S.
 
has
 
offered
 
to
 
facilitate
 
a
 
multilateral
 
settlement
 
of 
 
territorial
 
disputes
 
in
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea.
 
China’s
 
role
 
is
 
to
 
convince
 
the
 
states
 
of 
 
Southeast
 
Asia
 
that
 
it
 
is
 
replacing
 
the
 
United
 
States
 
as
 
the
 
pre
eminent
 
power
 
in
 
the
 
region
 
and
 
that
 
regional
 
states
 
should
 
align
 
themselves
 
with
 
Beijing
 
and/or
 
stop
 
policies
 
that
 
harm
 
China’s
 
interests.
 
Q5.
 
Some
 
analysts
 
argue
 
that
 
recent
 
Chinese
 
activities
 
are
 
designed
 
to
 
test
 
ASEAN,
 
the
 
United
 
States
 
and
 
international
 
bodies.
 
Do
 
you
 
share
 
that
 
assessment?
 
ANSWER:
 
China
 
seeks
 
to
 
divide
 
ASEAN
 
members
 
by
 
treating
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
as
 
a
 
bilateral
 
matter.
 
China
 
seeks
 
to
 
prolong
 
discussions
 
on
 
guidelines
 
to
 
implement
 
the
 
DOC,
 
as
 
well
 
as
 
a
 
code
 
of 
 
conduct,
 
in
 
order
 
to
 
build
 
up
 
its
 
strength.
 
China
 
seeks
 
to
 
create
 
an
 
East
 
Asia
 
security
 
region
 
that
 
excludes
 
the
 
United
 
States.
 
The
 
main
 
vehicle
 
for
 
this
 
was
 
the
 
ASEAN
 
Plus
 
Three
 
process.
 
ASEAN
 
responded
 
by
 
expanding
 
membership
 
in
 
the
 
East
 
Asia
 
Summit
 
to
 
include
 
Russia
 
and
 
the
 
United
 
States.
 
The
 
test
 
for
 
ASEAN
 
is
 
to
 
maintain
 
its
 
centrality
 
in
 
regional
 
security
 
architecture.
 
China
 
is
 
testing
 
the
 
U.S.
 
particularly
 
its
 
Mutual
 
Security
 
Treaty
 
(MST)
 
with
 
the
 
Philippines.
 
The
 
treaty
 
was
 
signed
 
in
 
1954
 
two
 
years
 
before
 
the
 
Philippines
 
took
 
possession
 
of 
 
what
 
it
 
now
 
calls
 
the
 
Kalayaan
 
Island
 
Group.
 
The
 
U.S.
 
says
 
the
 
MST
 
does
 
not
 
cover
 
territory
 
acquired
 
after
 
1954.
 
But
 
the
 
U.S.
 
says
 
if 
 
Filipino
 
military
 
vessels
 
are
 
attacked
 
the
 
U.S.
 
will
 
come
 
to
 
the
 
aid
 
of 
 
the
 
Philippines.
 
On
 
March
 
2
 
Chinese
 
patrol
 
boats
 
ordered
 
a
 
Philippines
 
seismic
 
exploration
 
vessel
 
to
 
leave
 
the
 
waters
 
around
 
Reed
 
Bank.
 
Since
 
the
 
Chinese
 
vessels
 
were
 
not
 
warships
 
and
 
no
 
shots
 
were
 
fired
 
the
 
Philippines
 
could
 
not
 
count
 
on
 
U.S
 
support.
 
Q6.
 
What
 
are
 
the
 
best
 
policy
 
options
 
for
 
Vietnam?
 
ANSWER:
 
Vietnam
 
must
 
deal
 
with
 
this
 
matter
 
on
 
three
 
levels.
 
The
 
first
 
is
 
self 
strengthening.
 
Vietnam
 
needs
 
to
 
adopt
 
a
 
strategy
 
and
 
allocate
 
the
 
resources
 
to
 
build
 
up
 
capacity
 
to
 
monitor
 
and
 
exercise
 
sovereignty
 
over
 
its
 
EEZ.
 
At
 
the
 
same
 
time,
 
Vietnam
 
needs
 
to
 
maintain
 
unity
 
at
 
home.
 
Second,
 
Vietnam
 
must
 
rely
 
on
 
high
level
 
diplomacy
 
with
 
China,
 
including
 
summit
 
meetings,
 
to
 
work
 
out
 
how
 
to
 
prevent
 
incidents
 
like
 
the
 
cutting
 
of 
 
the
 
cable
 
towed
 
by
 
Binh
 
Minh
 
02
 
for
 
reoccuring.
 
The
 
leaders
 
should
 
direct
 
a
 
 joint
 
working
 
group
 
to
 
adopt
 
appropriate
 
guidelines.
 
Third,
 
Vietnam
 
must
 
work
 
with
 
Indonesia
 
as
 
ASEAN
 
Chair,
 
to
 
maintain
 
unity
 
and
 
a
 
common
 
approach
 
towards
 
China.
 
At
 
the
 
same
 
time
 
Vietnam
 
needs
 
to
 
lobby
 
other
 
ASEAN
 
members.
 
Q7.
 
Will
 
recent
 
incidents
 
in
 
the
 
South
 
China
 
Sea
 
influence
 
the
 
Shangri
La
 
Dialogue
 

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