Li Nan

Visiting Senior Research Fellow, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore

Li Nan is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. He has published extensively on Chinese security and military policy and China’s maritime development. His most recent book is Civil-Military Relations in Post-Deng China: From Symbiosis to Quasi-Institutionalization (2020). He was previously a professor at the US Naval War College and had earlier received a PhD in political science from the Johns Hopkins University.

Military personnel stand in formation next to a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping (back) outside the Forbidden City in Beijing on 22 October 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

What has changed in China’s South China Sea policy under Xi Jinping?

Li Nan sees that China has been using more aggressive “defensive” strategies in the South China Sea (SCS) under Xi Jinping, which includes the building of several artificial islands and the consolidation of administrative control of Chinese possessions and claims in the SCS. While policy insiders in China often see these actions as defensive, those who have a stake in the SCS have cause to disagree.