June 10, 2014

A Plan to Counter Chinese Aggression

By Ely Ratner

With China drilling for oil in contested waters off Vietnam and building artificial islands off the Philippines, U.S. policy clearly isn't curbing Beijing's ambitions to redraw Asia's geographic boundaries. Restraining Chinese revisionism is no easy task, and the Obama administration can be applauded for enhancing the U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia and deepening engagement with Asia's multilateral institutions. But these long-term shifts could be buttressed by additional policy measures that Washington can pursue as soon as this summer.

In August 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concerns about Chinese behavior at a high-profile regional meeting in Hanoi and offered a trenchant defense of U.S. interests in the South China Sea. Key states in the region then followed with a well-orchestrated chorus echoing similar sentiments. In a now infamous outburst, the Chinese foreign minister retorted with the warning that, "China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that's just a fact." The reality was that China never looked so small.

Ms. Clinton's intervention became a standard U.S. talking point, but it was soon apparent that public opprobrium was insufficient to alter Beijing's assertive trajectory. Bit by bit, China has continued engaging in economic, military and diplomatic coercion to settle territorial and maritime disputes. Nearly every country ringing the South China Sea has been on the receiving end of a Chinese power play of maritime intimidation.

Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.

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