The South China Sea Conflict after the Arbitration of July 12, 2016: Analyses and Perspectives(WiSe 17/18)
Beijing’s multibillion support for the economies of Southeast Asia within the context of the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) is directly linked to the disputes in the South China Sea. Beijing endeavors to offset negative regional reactions to its determined expansion in the South China Sea by stressing the benefits of closer cooperation with China in pursuing mutually beneficial development. China’s ambitious plan for the MSR points towards a strategic vision of the future that has captured imaginations in China and Southeast Asia alike. Officially, in Beijing, three priorities animate the vast Belt and Road Initiative to which the MSR belongs. They are strategic, tactical, and grand. The strategic priority is to realize Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” - China’s future as a prospering and consequential power. The tactical priority is to promote and defend China’s specific economic and security interests on behalf of that hoped-for future. The grand and potentially global priority is to foster interdependence among countries within and beyond Asia based on win-win scenarios led by Beijing. The MSR is also intended to establish China’s legitimacy and leverage as a growing maritime power, thereby offsetting Southeast Asian and American objections to Chinese dominance in the South China Sea. Chinese officials categorically reject “hegemony” as a description of Chinese intent. Instead, in the inter-linked cases of the MSR and the South China Sea, hegemony is dressed as a benevolent kind of dominance where pre-eminence justifies control. The geopolitical context - great-power rivalry - implicitly vindicates the approach.
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