A Threat to Global Interdependence and Regional Stability
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 7, July 2022
Priscilla Tacujan, Ph.D.
U.S. Department of Defense
China’s expansionism in the South China Sea (SCS) is underway, despite opposition from small littoral states and regional powers in the area. China is seeking to change the legal order governing maritime conduct by engaging in “lawfare” and infrastructure-building on disputed waters as part of its maritime strategy. Lawfare enables Beijing to undermine established elements of international law and delegitimize neighboring states’ maritime claims. Claimant countries and the U.S. have argued for the importance of a rules-based approach that offers clear and uniform rules for maritime conduct. However, in the absence of enforcement mechanisms, China will likely continue to undermine international law, prevent littoral states from advancing their maritime claims, and threaten regional stability and global interdependence. Assessing and improving countermeasures currently in place, including enforcement mechanisms, existing maritime coalitions with regional allies and the U.S., and freedom of navigation (FON) operations may deter Chinese aggression and prevent the escalation of maritime conflicts in the SCS.