Parsing Beijing’s confusing South China Sea policies

Like all big powers, China has different policies and spins for different audiences. This is particularly so for the South China Sea.

China’s policies and approaches for the US and other “outsiders” are different from those for Southeast Asian countries, particularly its rival claimants. This is understandable. But some elements of its policies and approaches for different audiences are inconsistent and even contradictory.

This is in part because of the US purposely conflating its interests with those of Southeast Asian countries. Indeed, China thinks that the US is using the disputes and its rival claimants to contain and constrain what it sees as its rightful rise to regional domination.  This makes it difficult to differentiate its approaches to the different audiences.

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