Beijing Pays for South China Sea Assertiveness


Southeast Asian nations look helpless to counter Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea—but it would be misguided to think China isn’t wary of its own political toll, writes Andrew Browne in this week’s China’s World column:

Nothing seems to illustrate the impotence of Southeast Asian nations more than their glacial progress toward a code of conduct with Beijing on the South China Sea.

It’s been a marathon effort—and there’s no end in sight: China has made it explicitly clear it’s in no hurry to move ahead. But it would be misguided to think Beijing is shrugging off the push entirely.

Over the weekend, Asean leaders once again pleaded for speedy action on a code of conduct after a meeting in Myanmar that was overshadowed by the crisis. Washington, too, is pressing hard for it.

Yet, almost two decades after diplomatic efforts to reach an agreement got under way, formal discussions between China and Asean to work out the details have only just begun.

Meantime, as diplomacy drags on, China has been rapidly building up its military capabilities, particularly its navy, and using its muscle to alter the landscape in its own backyard.


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