Punish the Philippines, Forgive Vietnam? The South China Sea Disputes in the Eyes of Chinese Experts

  • Pascal AbbEmail author
Part of the Global Power Shift book series (GLOBAL)


This chapter examines public commentaries from Chinese foreign policy experts on the South China Sea issue and China’s relationships with some of the other dispute parties and extra-regional actors. It aims to establish systematic differences in how two specific actors—Vietnam and the Philippines—are being portrayed, if and how expert assessments differ from the official position, and what policy suggestions are being made.

To explore these questions, I combine an in-depth study of a number of commentaries relating to highly publicized events like the standoffs over HS 981 and Scarborough Shoal with a quantitative content and sentiment analysis of a sample of over 1500 pieces written by Chinese experts since 2010. Based on the findings, I argue that despite the Chinese insistence on describing the South China Sea as a regional issue, Chinese experts view it as an area of strategic contention with the United States, and perceptions of local actors are strongly shaped by their alignment with the US. Furthermore, while Chinese experts unanimously stand behind their nation’s territorial claims in the area, they have also emerged as a voice favoring moderation and de-escalation, and thus act as a possible counterweight to elite and grassroots demands for an even more assertive foreign policy. Finally, by tracking the diversity of views apparent in these debates, we can glean some insights into how China debates its future course on this issue, as well as the degree to which related policies have been settled or are still in flux.


China Vietnam Philippines South China Sea Experts Think tanks Media commentary 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Asian StudiesGIGA German Institute of Global and Area StudiesHamburgGermany

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