ASEAN has failed to ease tensions over the South China Sea this summer, but At nearly the same time, a Chinese naval frigate ran aground in a disputed. Can South China Sea conflict between Washington and Beijing be . the Philippines has benefited from its better relationship with China while. fter a decade of silence, the South China Sea (SCS) conflict has once again arisen Constructive Engagement: Sino-ASEAN relations and the South China Sea.
Brunei and China have overlapping claims in the South China Sea and Brunei may be using this as leverage to keep badly needed Chinese investment flowing. Petroleum reserves are projected to run out in 20 years.
But this is a double-edged sword. Beijing may try to use its strengthening economic and political ties with Brunei to help prevent a consensus within Asean regarding decisions or statements on the South China Sea.
Already Brunei, along with non-claimants Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, has agreed with Beijing that the South China Sea disputes are not an issue for Asean and should be resolved through dialogue and consultation between the parties concerned.
Singapore is not a claimant state but is vitally dependent on commercial freedom of navigation.
It welcomes and facilitates the US military presence by providing temporary basing and refuelling for its warships and aircraft. But Singapore also seems to be hedging on its policy towards both China and the US. Perhaps its current roles as both Asean interlocutor with China and Asean chair has resulted in it taking a more neutral position. He specifically called out China for its military build-up there.
But he also called on both China and the US to improve their relationship in the interests of the region. This is understandable, because Vietnam has clashed militarily with China in the past in the South China Sea and came close to doing so again in when a Chinese oil rig entered waters that it claims. It is a conflict embedded in, and a manifestation of, the overarching relations.
ASEAN and China should seize the opportunity in the South China Sea | East Asia Forum
If the two sides cannot manage the SCS, what is then left of two decades of positive engagement under the umbrella of Soft Power and Constructive Engagement? Despite recently being paid much attention, the current situation in the SCS is not a new one.
In the early s the area was predicted, in particular by US analysts, to emerge as a future perpetual conflict.
At first glance, the current situation might look like a return to the s. However, when looking closer, it is clear that this is not the case. Major changes have happened in the relations between China and ASEAN, as well as in the regional system since the early s. All these transformations have not vanished in an instant, but continue to affect how the actors behave towards each other, including in the SCS.
But no consensus exists on how to define soft power with regard to the Chinese soft power discourse. This rapprochement was to become a long term identity altering process for both parties, whom have reinterpreted their interests and transformed their behaviour towards each other. The rapprochement is fundamental for the understanding of why there have been attempts to manage their relations in a constructive and peaceful way and why the relations have developed in a positive direction, including with regard to the South China Sea.
The underlying Chinese logic is that an understanding of China and its benign intensions will make the Asian actors change their perceived interests and behaviour in a direction that is favourable to China.
The move towards, and acceptance of, multilateralism did over time become institutionalised in the way preferred by ASEAN. The Chinese acceptance of multilateralism and institutionalisation of peaceful relations have together created a structural framework with forums, dialogues, and accepted diplomatic norms and practices. During the same period, due to the good relations and the Chinese acceptance of multilateralism including accepting to engage ASEAN as a group, the SCS from an area where the common assumption among analysts was that China would behave aggressively, and that the area was set for perpetual conflict.
Nevertheless, from the mids there was a de-escalation in the SCS conflict. Most concretely, China has been increasing its military reach, consolidating its jurisdictional claims in the SCS, and pursued a more hard line policy to undermine the claims made by other states.
Are Asean members still willing to support a provocative US in the South China Sea?
The tensions escalated further as China was more actively asserting its claims. For example, after the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal between the Philippines and China, China failed to follow through on a verbal agreement of a mutual pull-out.
Instead, it roped off the mouth of the lagoon to prevent a Filipino re-entry and stepping up patrols around the shoal.