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South China Sea

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No risk of SCS conflict – Multiple Reasons

Li and Yanzhuo, 6-19 – [Xie Li, Director of the Department of International Strategy at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Xu Yanzhuo, Doctorate from Durham University (UK in studies international responsibility, South China Sea disputes, and Chinese foreign policy, 6-19-2015, The US and China Won't See Military Conflict Over the South China Sea, The Diplomat,, The United States and China both have an overriding interest in keeping the peace.] Jeong

In a recent piece on the South China Sea disputes, I argued that “the ASEAN claimants are largely staying behind the scenes while external powers take center stage.” Based on recent developments on the South China Sea issue, it seems the U.S. will not only be a ‘director’ but an actor. We saw this clearly on May 20, when the U.S. military sent surveillance aircraft over three islands controlled by Beijing. However, this does not necessary mean the South China Sea will spark a U.S.-China military conflict. As a global hegemon, the United States’ main interest lies in maintaining the current international order as well as peace and stability. Regarding the South China Sea, U.S. interests include ensuring peace and stability, freedom of commercial navigation, and military activities in exclusive economic zones. Maintaining the current balance of power is considered to be a key condition for securing these interests—and a rising China determined to strengthen its hold on South China Sea territory is viewed as a threat to the current balance of power. In response, the U.S. launched its “rebalance to Asia” strategy. In practice, the U.S. has on the one hand strengthened its military presence in Asia-Pacific, while on the other hand supporting ASEAN countries, particularly ASEAN claimants to South China Sea territories. This position has included high-profile rhetoric by U.S. officials. In 2010, then-U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton spoke at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi about the South China Sea, remarks that aligned the U.S. with Southeast Asia’s approach to the disputes. At the 2012 Shangri-La Dialogue, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta explained how the United States will rebalance its force posture as part of playing a “deeper and more enduring partnership role” in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2014, then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagelcalled out China’s “destabilizing, unilateral activities asserting its claims in the South China Sea.” His remarks also came at the Shangri-La dialogue, while China’s HY-981 oil rig was deployed in the waters around the Paracel Islands. In 2015, U.S. officials have openly pressured China to scale back its construction work in the Spratly islands and have sent aircraft to patrol over islands in the Spratly that are controlled by China. These measures have brought global attention to the South China Sea. However, if we look at the practical significance of the remarks, there are several limiting factors. The interests at stake in the South China Sea are not core national interests for the United States. Meanwhile, the U.S.-Philippine alliance is not as important as the U.S.-Japan alliance, and U.S. ties with other ASEAN countries are even weaker. Given U.S.-China mutual economic dependence and China’s comprehensive national strength, the United States is unlikely to go so far as having a military confrontation with China over the South China Sea. Barack Obama, the ‘peace president’ who withdrew the U.S. military from Iraq and Afghanistan, is even less likely to fight with China for the South China Sea. As for the U.S. interests in the region, Washington is surely aware that China has not affected the freedom of commercial navigation in these waters so far. And as I noted in my earlier piece, Beijing is developing its stance and could eventually recognize the legality of military activities in another country’s EEZ (see, for example, the China-Russia joint military exercise in the Mediterranean). Yet when it comes to China’s large-scale land reclamation in the Spratly Islands (and on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands), Washington worries that Beijing will conduct a series of activities to strengthen its claims on the South China Sea, such as establishing an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) or advocating that others respect a 200-nautical mile (370 km) EEZ from its islands. Meanwhile, the 2014 oil rig incident taught Washington that ASEAN claimants and even ASEAN as a whole could hardly play any effective role in dealing with China’s land reclamation. Hence, the U.S. has no better choice than to become directly involved in this issue. At the beginning, the United States tried to stop China through private diplomatic mediation, yet it soon realized that this approach was not effective in persuading China. So Washington started to tackle the issue in a more aggressive way, such as encouraging India, Japan, ASEAN, the G7, and the European Union to pressure Beijing internationally. Domestically, U.S. officials from different departments and different levels have opposed China’s ‘changing the status quo’ in this area. Since 2015, Washington has increased its pressure on China. It sent the USS Fort Worth, a littoral combat ship, to sail in waters near the Spratly area controlled by Vietnam in early May. U.S. official are also considering sending naval and air patrols within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands controlled by China. Washington has recognized that it could hardly stop China’s construction in Spratly Islands. Therefore, it has opted to portray Beijing as a challenger to the status quo, at the same time moving to prevent China from establishing a South China Sea ADIZ and an EEZ of 200 nautical miles around its artificial islands. This was the logic behind the U.S. sending a P-8A surveillance plane with reporters on board to approach three artificial island built by China. China issued eight warnings to the plane; the U.S. responded by saying the plane was flying through international airspace. Afterwards, U.S. Defense Department spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said there could be a potential “freedom of navigation” exercise within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands. If this approach were adopted, it would back China into a corner; hence it’s a unlikely the Obama administration will make that move. As the U.S. involvement in the South China Sea becomes more aggressive and high-profile, the dynamic relationship between China and the United States comes to affect other layers of the dispute (for example, relations between China and ASEAN claimants or China and ASEAN in general). To some extent, the South China Sea dispute has developed into a balance of power tug-of-war between the U.S. and China, yet both sides will not take the risk of military confrontation. As Foreign Minister Wang Yi put it in a recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, “as for the differences, our attitude is it is okay to have differences as long as we could avoid misunderstanding, and even more importantly, avoid miscalculation.” For its part, China is determined to build artificial islands and several airstrips in the Spratlys, which I argue would help promote the resolution of SCS disputes. But it’s worth noting that if China establishes an ADIZ and advocates a 200 nautical miles EEZ (as the U.S. fears), it would push ASEAN claimants and even non-claimants to stand by the United States. Obviously, the potential consequences contradict with China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy. In February 2014, in response to reports by Japan’s Asahi Shimbun that a South China Sea ADIZ was imminent, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs hinted that China would not necessarily impose an ADIZ. “The Chinese side has yet to feel any air security threat from the ASEAN countries and is optimistic about its relations with the neighboring countries and the general situation in the South China Sea region,” aspokesperson said. Since the “Belt and Road” is Beijing’s primary strategic agenda for the coming years, it is crucial for China to strengthen its economic relationship with ASEAN on the one hand while reducing ASEAN claimants’ security concerns on the other hand. As a result, it should accelerate the adjustment of its South China Sea policy; clarify China’s stand on the issue, and propose China’s blueprint for resolving the disputes. The South China Sea dispute has developed a seasonal pattern, where the first half of the year is focused on conflicts, and the second half tends to emphasize cooperation. Considering its timing at the peak of ‘conflict season,’ the Shangri-La Dialogue serves as a hot spot. Since 2012, the Shangri-La Dialogue has become a platform for the U.S. and China to tussle on the South China Sea, with the U.S. being proactive and China reactive. (Incidentally, this partly explains why China is upgrading Xiangshan Forum as an alternative dialogue platform). This year was no exception, as the U.S. worked hard to draw the world’s attention to the Shangri-La Dialogue this year. But audiences should be aware that aggressive statements at the Shangri-La Dialogue are not totally representative of U.S.-China relations. After all, these statements are made by military rather than political elites. Cooperation will be the key when the U.S. and China have their Strategic and Economic Dialogue in late June, with the ASEAN Regional Forum and other meetings following later this summer.

No risk of SCS conflicts – Globalization checks

Jenny, 15 – [Nicolas Jenny, Masters at Fudan University in Shanghai, 1-28-15, Trade Goes on as Usual in the South China Sea,] Jeong

International relations scholars and journalists have intensely debated the reasons behind China's increased assertiveness in the South China Sea. But Beijing's foreign policy actions in the region have made most countries suspicious if not completely resentful of China.¶ This has led some to claim that, ‘China today faces the worst regional environment since Tiananmen. Its relations with Japan are at a record low; China-ASEAN ties have similarly deteriorated due to the South China Sea disputes and China's heavy-handed use of its clout to divide ASEAN.'¶ Despite this resentment, analysts have largely overlooked the trade dynamics between China and other claimants in the South China Sea dispute. One would naturally assume that deep suspicions or resentment of Beijing would translate into diminishing trade ties, yet the opposite has taken place.¶ For example, Vietnam recorded an 18.9% increase in Chinese imports in 2014 despite Hanoi's attempts to broaden its import partners. The issue became particularly relevant following China's decision to place an oil rig in disputed waters earlier in 2014.¶ The Philippines, no stranger to Chinese pressure in the South China Sea, also reported a 12.4% increase of exports to China during the first nine months of 2014. Coincidentally, China is also the Philippines' third largest, and Vietnam's largest trading partner.¶ While smaller East Asian states continue to hedge their bets against China, there is a resounding pattern in their trade statistics - they all present a strong trade deficit in China's favour. Vietnam's trade deficit with China reached a record high in 2014 while the Philippines' highest trade deficit is with China, representing 16% of imports, a 35% increase from previous years.¶ Herein lays the conundrum of the South China Sea dispute: while claimant states rally against Beijing's nine-dash line, economically, they need China more than China needs them. Access to China's market has forced foreign companies and their governments to compromise on politics. While European companies have compromised on issues such as internet censorship, Southeast Asia's governments have been forced to compromise on sovereignty in the South China Sea. This economic fact of life for Southeast Asian states has produced ripple effects across policy. For example, following the deadly anti-China riots in Vietnam, Hanoi promised to reimburse and rebuild China's factories damaged by the protests. Similarly, the Philippines' economy suffered tremendously in 2012 when China drastically cut banana imports.¶ China will soon have successfully leveraged its economic power to reach political ends - the consolidation of the South China Sea as Beijing's core interest. It will not have primarily been through vast military expansion as many had predicted, but rather through its economic might. Trade has arguably been China's most widely used foreign policy tool and as China's wealth increases, this is only set to continue.¶ As it should be remembered, the South China Sea dispute is not all about potential energy deposits in the region. It is a dispute over competing visions of the South China Sea and a weary China who sees itself surrounded. Heightened trade flows between China and the claimant states can assure a certain amount of stability in the region.¶ And although many are quick to remind us that trade cannot serve as a deterrent to conflict, today's globalised world stands in stark contrast to the beginning of the 20th century. Even the Philippine president, Aquino, argued that territorial disputes in the South China Sea were unlikely to lead to conflict because no one was willing to sacrifice the huge trade flows in the region. Therefore, despite the issues over sovereignty and the occasional flare-ups between various claimants, peace, no matter how precarious, will prevail - no country is ready, particularly China, to sacrifice trade at the expense of stability.

Despite tensions, relations are stable now – Checks escalation

Lee, 5-16 – [Matthew Lee, Graduate from UCLA and Senior Social Media Fellow at the Huffington Post, 5-16-2015, South China Sea Dispute Remains Sticking Point In U.S., China Talks, The World Post,] Jeong

BEIJING (AP) — China and the United States are budging not a bit over Beijing's assertive development in disputed parts of the South China Sea, with Chinese officials politely but pointedly dismissing Washington's push for U.S.-proposed ways to ease tensions. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a visit to China on Sunday, both sides stressed the importance of dialogue to resolve competing claims in the waterway. But neither showed any sign of giving ground over Chinese land reclamation projects that have alarmed the United States and China's smaller neighbors. Kerry met Sunday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will be making an official visit to the United States this fall and sought to highlight U.S.-China cooperation. "In my view, U.S.-China relations have remained stable overall," Xi told Kerry at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, adding that he "look(ed) forward to continue to grow this relationship" on his upcoming visit. Despite those words, which came shortly before Kerry left Beijing and arrived in Seoul, South Korea, friction over China's construction in the South China Sea was evident and clouded the start of Kerry's brief trip to Asia. The U.S. and most members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations want a halt to the projects, which they suspect are aimed at building islands and other land features over which China can claim sovereignty. "We are concerned about the pace and scope of China's land reclamation in the South China Sea," Kerry said on Saturday. He urged China to speed up talks with ASEAN on guidelines for handling maritime activity in disputed areas. The goal is to help "reduce tensions and increase the prospect of diplomatic solutions," Kerry said. "I think we agree that the region needs smart diplomacy in order to conclude the ASEAN-China code of conduct and not outposts and military strips," Kerry told reporters at a news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Wang indicated that while China was prepared to talk, it would not back down on the construction that, he said, "is something that falls fully within the scope of China's sovereignty." "The determination of the Chinese side to safeguard our own sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock, and it is unshakable," he said. "It has always been our view that we need to find appropriate solutions to the issues we have through communications and negotiations that we have among the parties directly concerned with peaceful and diplomatic means on the basis of respecting historical facts and international norms. This position will remain unchanged in the future." Wang added that the differences between China and the U.S. could be managed "as long as we can avoid misunderstanding and, even more importantly, avoid miscalculation." The Chinese claims and land reclamation projects have rattled the region where South China Sea islands and reefs are contested by China and five other Asian governments. These activities have led to maritime clashes, accompanied by nationalistic protests and serious diplomatic rows. The U.S. says it takes no position on the sovereignty claims but insists they must be negotiated. Washington also says ensuring maritime safety and access to some of the world's busiest commercial shipping routes is a U.S. national security priority. China has bristled at what it sees as U.S. interference in the region and wants to negotiate with the ASEAN countries individually, something those much smaller nations fear will not be fair. In one disputed area, the Spratly Islands, U.S. officials say China has reclaimed about 2,000 acres of dry land since 2014 that could be used as airstrips or for military purposes. The U.S. argues that man-made constructions cannot be used to claim sovereignty. Obama administration officials have declined to comment on reports that it may deploy military assets, or that it is considering a demonstration of freedom of navigation within 12 nautical miles of the islands' notional territorial zone. But they have said many of the features claimed by China in the disputed Spratlys are submerged and do not carry territorial rights, and maintained that China cannot "manufacture sovereignty" with its reclamation projects. Despite the clear disagreements over the South China Sea, Kerry and Wang said they were on track to make progress in other areas, notably on climate change, the fight against violent extremism, and preparations for the next round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in June and Xi's visit to Washington in September. They expressed pleasure with their cooperation in the Iran nuclear talks, their solidarity in trying to denuclearize North Korea and combat diseases such as the deadly Ebola virus.

US-Chinese war won’t escalate – both are committed to peaceful negotiations

Taylor, 14 – [Brendan Taylor, Head of the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre at the Australian and PhD from National Australian University, 2014, “The South China Sea is Not a Flashpoint,” The Washington Quarterly, Spring 2014, Volume 34, Issue 1, Taylor & Francis,] Jeong

Brendan – Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian and PhD – National Australian University, “The South China Sea is Not a Flashpoint,” The Washington Quarterly, Spring 2014, Volume 34, Issue 1, Taylor & Francis

But doubts remain over whether Beijing truly regards the South China Sea as a “core interest.” Michael Swaine reports that his investigation of Chinese official sourcesfailed to unearth a single example of a PRC official or an official PRC document or media source that publicly and explicitly identifies the South China Sea as a PRC ‘core interest.’”25 By contrast, Chinese officials have not exhibited such reticence when referring publicly to Taiwan or Tibet in such terms. Nor has Beijing shown any reluctance to threaten or to actually use military force in relation to these. During the 1995–96 Taiwan Strait Crisis, Beijing twice fired ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan in an effort to intimidate voters in advance of the island’s first democratic presidential election.26 China went further in March 2005 when the National People’s Congress passed an “anti-secession law” requiring the use of “non-peaceful means” against Taiwan in the event its leaders sought to establish formal independence from the mainland.27

Explicit threats and promises of this nature are absent in official Chinese statements on the South China Sea even when, as in May 2012, the normally smooth-talking Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying ambiguously warned the Philippines “not to misjudge the situation” and not to “escalate tensions without considering consequences” at the height of the Scarborough Shoal standoff.28 Indeed, although Beijing appears eager to demonstrate its growing naval capabilities by conducting military exercises in the South China Sea—as in March 2013 when it controversially conducted exercises within 50 miles of the Malaysian coastline—it is striking that Chinese efforts to actually exercise jurisdiction in this region continue to be confined, by and large, to the use of civil maritime law enforcement vessels.29

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