In 2001, in response to an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreement with China regarding conduct in the South China Sea, Odgaard (2001) optimistically described the cooperation as the beginning of a “new order”. Odgaard remarked that, “The dispute highlights differences in the approach of the two entities to the balance of power, diplomacy, and international law…[and] the seeds of a new order emerge, representing a compromise between the security practices employed by China and Southeast Asia” (Odgaard, 2001, p. 292). As recent events have demonstrated, Odgaard weighted a liberal approach to the dispute too heavily, and China’s rising economic status has tipped the scales in its favor, allowing it to ignore ASEAN’s deterrence coalition.
In 2015 Castro contrasted China’s power politics approach against the Philippines liberal-legal strategy. Castro (2015) concluded that the Philippine government lacks military credibility to back diplomatic negotiations. Castro likens the China-Philippines relationship to the ancient Thucydides maxim that, “The strong do what they have the power to do, and the weak accept what they have to accept.” Castro is both descriptive and analytical in his approach to the conflict. He asserts that in the absence of US intervention, the Philippines must rely on a legal strategy to balance power. This is a reference to the Philippine government’s formal complaint to the International Tribunal over China’s incursion into its territorial waters. Castro describes the Obama administration as supportive but noncommittal, citing US reluctance to trigger confrontation with China, a major economic partner. Describing the consequences of the dispute, Castro writes “…small powers have a low level of participation in world affairs and might find it detrimental to their interest to engage in risky and expensive foreign policy undertakings such as balancing (De Castro, 2015, p. 71). This statement is particularly relevant because of its transference to other Spratly claimants that oppose China’s claims, but are reluctant to act.