Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2
- Sep 28, 2011
Shangri-La Dialogue: Beijing's Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove | The DiplomatChina's deployment of the HD-981 oil rig to drill in Vietnam's EEZ waters has once again ratcheted up tensions in the South China Sea. This move is seen by many commentators as the latest example of Beijing's increasingly assertive approach to its regional interests. From the late 1990s and through most of the 2000s, China executed a regional "charm offensive" seeking to develop good relations with all of its immediate neighbors. Since around 2009, however, Beijing has brought this phase to an end, hardening up its attitude to regional disputes, robustly contesting its claims and more generally taking a tougher stand towards the existing regional order. The oil rig deployment is the latest in a long line of incidents across Asia showing an increasingly assertive China muscling up and destabilizing the existing regional arrangements.
But China's approach to the region is more complex than the move from moderate to assertive implies. Harvard University China watcher Alastair Iain Johnston has argued that Chinese diplomacy throughout the 2000s was not always particularly charming nor is Beijing's assertiveness especially new.