Lecture2Go Catalog Universität Hamburg F.5 - Geisteswissenschaften Asien-Afrika-Institut The South China Sea Conflict after the Arbitration of July 12, 2016: Analyses and Perspectives

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The Maritime Silk Road and the South China Sea – Stepping Stones for China’s Regional Hegemony?

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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