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Peaceful Rise or Quiet Rise?
China Stops Barking, Keeps Biting

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently addressed the audience at an annual press conference, and his placating remarks highlight China’s tendency to say one thing and do another. Here again there’s a stark contrast between Beijing’s reassuring words and its aggressive actions, as Reuters reports:

China’s foreign minister on Sunday defended his government’s controversial policy of reclamation on disputed isles in the South China Sea which has sparked regional concern, and said Beijing was not seeking to overturn the international order. […]

Wang said he believed that the current system needed to be updated rather than overturned, to give more say to developing countries, comparing the international order and system built around the United Nations to a big boat.

“Today we are in this boat, together with more than 190 other countries. So of course we don’t want to upset the boat, rather we want to work with other passengers to make sure this boat will sail forward steadily and in the right direction.”

In the second half of 2014, China moved away from its expansionist policy in the East and South China Seas, under which it had reclaimed land, rammed its rivals’ vessels, provocatively placed drilling rigs in foreign waters, and generally heightened tension. Its ultimate goals, however, remained firmly in place. It had merely decided on a different route, in no small part because its economic interdependence with Japan made its choice of actions in the East China Sea a loser.

So we expected to see a more pronounced gap between China’s actual strategy and its “announced strategy.” It also seemed likely that China would not really scale back its expansionist efforts any more than was necessary to turn down the temperature in the region. Today, with China continuing with some of its most provocative actions in the South China Sea, behaving relatively well in the East China Sea, and all the while insisting that it is committed to peace and that it is not trying to revise the world order or achieve the status of regional hegemon, that is just what is playing out.

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