from Asia Unbound

China’s Maritime Disputes: Are There Any Real Solutions?

September 17, 2013

Vessels from the China Maritime Surveillance and the Japan Coast Guard are seen near disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea, in this photo taken on September 10, 2013. (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters)
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Territorial Disputes


Over the past year, China’s disputes over the South China Sea, which had sharply divided Beijing from Southeast Asian claimants like the Philippines, Malaysia, and especially Vietnam, seems to have cooled somewhat. China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been working on a code of conduct to manage disputes over the Sea and reduce tensions before they flare up.

But these are only short-term fixes. New President Xi Jinping clearly is more of a nationalist than his immediate predecessors, and more willing to openly support a growing Chinese military presence in disputed waters. He also seems more willing to deal out diplomatic snubs to leaders in the region who dare dispute China’s claims; in August Beijing abruptly withdrew an invitation for Philippines President Benigno Aquino III to a major trade show in China, after Aquino launched negotiations with the United States to increase the American military presence in the Philippines. Vietnamese and Philippine leaders also have become more willing to push their claims, and, in the case of the Philippines, to turn to the United States for major help. Meanwhile, China has proven totally unwilling to agree to any binding permanent solution to overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

So, are there any real solutions to the South China Sea crisis and to China’s other potentially explosive maritime disputes?  On CFR’s new interactive InfoGuide on China’s maritime disputes, you can find tons of information about the disputes, possible solutions, and the likelihood that these territorial disputes might lead to open conflict. Find the new interactive guide here.