Envisioning a U.S. Strategy of Restraint in the South China Sea and Beyond
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This summer marked the fifth anniversary of the ruling by a tribunal convened by the U.N. Commission on the Law of the Sea in response to a case submitted by the Philippines against the People’s Republic of China. To note the occasion, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated previous U.S. rhetoric that China was “threatening freedom of navigation” and urged Beijing to “reassure the international community that it is committed to the rules-based maritime order.” But what is the rules-based maritime order? How can the United States best work with countries throughout the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen and improve that order? Is it possible to work with rather than against China in bolstering the rules-based maritime order, and if so, how and in what areas?
To address these questions, the Quincy Institute recently published the report, “Promoting Peace and Stability in the Maritime Order Amid China’s Rise,” authored by Rachel Esplin Odell. Odell traces how China’s maritime rise is impacting its relationship with the United States and with China’s neighbors. She analyzes how China has evolved to favor greater freedom of navigation as its own naval and maritime activities have expanded, even while it doubles down on its expansive and vague claims in the South China Sea. Faced with these dynamics, Odell suggests ways the United States can craft a strategy of military restraint and diplomatic engagement in the Indo-Pacific that reduces security tensions, enhances crisis management, and builds a more inclusive maritime order in the region and beyond.
On October 4, experts on maritime security in the Western Pacific will convene to explore and debate the analysis and recommendations of this report and offer their own ideas for promoting peace and stability at sea. Panelists include Mike M. Mochizuki, Japan-U.S. Relations Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University; Bec Strating, Executive Director of La Trobe Asia and Senior Lecturer at La Trobe University; Gregory Poling, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia and Director, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Shuxian Luo, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. Michael D. Swaine, Director of the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute, will moderate the discussion.