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Game of Thrones: Xi Tries to Calm Southeastern Waters

Speaking at gathering in southern China for ASEAN leaders, Chinese heir apparent Xi Jinping sought to reassure his southeastern neighbors that China is committed to the peaceful resolution of all territorial disputes. Reuters:

“We are firm in safeguarding China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and are committed to resolving differences with neighbors concerning territorial land, territorial sea and maritime rights and interests peacefully through friendly negotiations,” he [Xi] said.

“China’s sustained development and prosperity offer an important and lasting window of opportunities to its neighbors, and promise important development opportunities to countries around the world, ASEAN countries included”

Xi added that it is “important . . . for the country [China] to have a stable regional environment and a peaceful international environment.”

Beijing seems to be playing a double game: encouraging protests and (as we’ll discuss in a post later today) wielding economic weapons against Japan, while simultaneously reassuring China’s neighbors to the southeast that China has only peaceful discussion in mind. Perhaps Beijing is wary of getting sucked into territorial disputes with all its neighbors at the same time. So, as the East China Sea dispute with Japan simmers, Xi turns to the southeast to cool things off.

Crass and blundering Chinese diplomacy over the last two years frightened almost everyone in the region and made the task of US diplomats easy. Smarter strategy on China’s part will try to split the coalition; that seems to be the direction in which president-select Xi wants to go.

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