South China Sea as a Microcosm of Chinese Foreign Policy and Prospects for Asian Polarization
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Western prognostications about China have been largely inaccurate as they have been predicated on misunderstandings of that government’s motivations and desired outcomes: misunderstandings too often engendered by simply imposing Western values and aspirations on Chinese words and actions. An analysis of China’s foreign-policy actions in pursuing its South China Sea (SCS) claims demonstrates three things: (1) that the forces of history play an indispensable role in framing the foreign-policy goals and aspirations of leaders in Beijing; (2) that efforts by Western powers to adopt China policies designed to entice political liberalization have not worked; and (3) that Beijing employs a realist framework when setting regional plans and priorities. This chapter examines these processes to determine Beijing’s framework for conflict resolution in the SCS. It concludes that realism dominates foreign-policy formulation in Beijing and that this dooms efforts by other powers to employ policies based on liberalism or constructivism to defuse tensions. It then offers some predictions for how this dynamic will affect political developments in the contested waters.
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