South China Sea

This photo taken on 6 October 2022 shows a cargo ship loaded with vehicles berthing at Yantai Port in China's eastern Shandong province. (AFP)

From rule taker to rule shaper: The importance of UNCLOS to China

China’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) not only helped Beijing to adapt to contemporary global ocean governance, but also reinforced the importance for China to develop a maritime strategy to safeguard its maritime rights and interests. For instance despite China’s rejection of the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling of the Philippines’ case against China in the case of the South China Sea, it still refers to UNCLOS (rather than simply dismisses it) to explain its decision. It can be expected that UNCLOS can be a tool of political contestation in the great power competition between Beijing and Washington.
Chinese President Xi Jinping awarded the Friendship Medal to Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in a grand award ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, on 31 October 2022. (Xinhua)

China’s diplomacy in full swing after 20th Party Congress

Diplomatic activities appear to be back at full swing after the 20th Party Congress. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu notes that the visits by heads of states to China are driven by Beijing’s objectives of bringing its neighbours close, stabilising relations with Europe, and strengthening relations with developing countries. Will this help improve China’s relations and international image, especially amid the tense geopolitical background?
US President Joe Biden meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City, US, on 22 September 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

Can the Philippines stay neutral in a Taiwan Strait military confrontation between the US and China?

Philippine academic Renato Cruz De Castro asserts that the Philippines will have to fall back on the strength of the Philippines-US alliance in the face of a possible US-China armed stand-off in the Taiwan Strait.
Visitors near a screen displaying an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China, 3 September 2022. (Florence Lo/Reuters)

[Future of China] Xi Jinping and the world: Retrospect and prospect

As the 20th Party Congress approaches, US academic Robert S. Ross assesses China’s foreign policy record over the last ten years and weighs up China’s foreign policy priorities in the likely third term of President Xi Jinping’s leadership. This is the last in a five-part series of articles on the future of China.
A man stands in front of a screen showing a CCTV news broadcast, featuring a map of locations around Taiwan where Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) will conduct military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills, at a shopping center in Beijing, China, 3 August 2022. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

China normalising military measures in the Taiwan Strait

Mainland China is exerting increasing pressure on Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, with the military countermeasures showing the possibility of the normalisation of military measures. Academic Qi Dongtao believes that in managing the Taiwan issue, mainland China will repeat its strategic determination and patience seen in handling the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands and the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gestures upon arriving for an official visit to the Philippines, at Villamor Airbase in Pasay, Metro Manila, on 5 July 2022. (Jam Sta Rosa/AFP)

Will China's 'Asian way' of building peace for Asia work?

China’s “Asian way” is an all-embracing idea and a coded language to discredit other countries’ actions that are deemed harmful to China’s strategic interests. A simple version is: the West seeks to divide through confrontation and exclusion, while the “Asian way” seeks to unite through dialogue and inclusion. ISEAS academic Hoang Thi Ha examines the validity of that narrative.
Members of the honour guard prepare for a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 25 October 2019. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

The PLA’s political role: The party still, and must always control the gun

While the Chinese government has paid more attention to the navy and air force contingents of the People’s Liberation Army in recent times, it is still the land forces that have the most political influence. The party is well aware that it is the latter’s might they would need in the event of internal uprisings and it is this constituent’s loyalty and strength they must ensure.
This screen grab made from a video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows the launch ceremony of the Fujian, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft carrier, at a shipyard in Shanghai, China, on 17 June 2022. (CCTV/AFP)

China’s third aircraft carrier: No need to panic just yet

China’s third aircraft carrier is not yet nuclear-powered and won’t be battle-ready for some years yet. Besides, in terms of possible warfare, it’s the numerous surface combatants China possesses that the US should be worried about, says Loro Horta. But with every iteration of China’s aircraft carrier, its ambitions of eventually taking on the US in the open Pacific is increasingly clear.
China's State Councilor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe walks to attend a bilateral meeting with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, 10 June 2022. (Caroline Chia/Reuters)

Framing China’s actions: From ‘assertive’ to ‘aggressive’

US-led Western rhetoric has not been friendly to China, with “assertive” being the operative word. However, at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, that term was “upgraded” to “aggressive”, prompting a strong response from China. Is this portrayal deserved and are tensions likely to persist in the region? What should the ASEAN countries’ response be?