This is a very brief backgrounder on recent Sino-American tensions in the South China Sea I wrote for BBC World Service.
Here is the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/vietnamese/world/2009/07/090728_rehman_commentary.shtml
I'm afraid it's not as well written or structured as I would like it to be as it was written under a deadline.
Growing Chinese assertiveness in the
2009 has been marked by a distinct increase in the level of Chinese assertiveness, both diplomatic and military, in the region.
The Spratly dispute has resurfaced to overshadow Sino-Philippine relations and Vietnamese fishermen are routinely being rounded up by Chinese patrol vessels for "fishing in Chinese waters".
British and American companies have been pressured out of participating in offshore energy ventures with
What can explain this increased Chinese assertiveness? In my opinion there are two main reasons for this behaviour. First of all, as the Pentagon's most recent annual report on the PLA predicted, the PLAN's extensive military modernization has put in a much better position to project power in the region and has thus given birth to a more aggressive form of Chinese self-confidence in the defence of its maritime claims. Secondly, it is possible that
The Obama Administration’s response:
The Obama Administration has revealed itself to be both firm and measured in its dealings with the PRC. After the USNS Impeccable incident, the
The PRC's claim that it has absolute sovereignty over its EEZ has been repeatedly rebuffed by the State Department officials, who quote article 58 of the UNCLOS convention which stipulates the following, " In the EEZ, all states...enjoy the freedoms referred to in Article 87 of navigation and overflight..and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to such freedoms".
Jurisdictional squabbles put aside, the reality is that the PRC has historically viewed the South China Sea as little more than a 'Chinese lake', and now has the diplomatico-military wherewithal to pursue the geopolitical materialization of its geographical perceptions with an ever growing self-confidence.
The United States, which has been gradually reducing its naval forces in the region, and which, to the eyes of certain Chinese strategists, has seemed to be displaying signs of 'imperial overstretch' in Iraq and Afghanistan, does not inspire the same level of deference that it used to.
This may be about to change however. The
Stick, because the
During the hearing, American officials reasserted
You can watch the Senate Subcommittee Hearing in its entirety by following this link:http://www.senate.gov/fplayers/CommPlayer/commFlashPlayer.cfm?fn=foreign071509p&st=435
The Future of American Policy in the Region: A Delicate Balancing Act:
All, in all, American policy towards the South China Sea will continue to be a subtle balancing act, in-between public displays of resolve and private efforts to re-establish dialogue, and in-between professed claims of neutrality and rather more circumspect efforts to strengthen Southeast Asian unity in the face of Chinese expansionism.
While such policies may seem both convoluted and complex to the outsider, one thing has been made clearly apparent: if the PRC was hoping to destabilise the new American administration by engaging in a series of actions designed to test its mettle, it has failed: the