The ongoing standoff over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is key for global peace and prosperity. In September 2012, in reaction to the Japanese government’s hastened acquisition of three Senkaku islets from a Japanese private citizen, China started to send its forces in the waters surrounding the small archipelago administered by Japan.
Large parts of the territorial waters in the South China Sea are contested and China is the biggest and the most assertive claimant country. In the South China Sea Beijing’s territorial claims include the Paracel Islands (also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam), the Spratly Islands (claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei) and the Scarborough Shoal, claimed by both Taiwan and the Philippines.
While the US is seeking a way of rebalancing China in East Asia its approach left space for interpretation. The strategy of positioning itself in Asia on basis of concrete security issues and alliances while keeping its involvement open is seemingly only one aspect of the new game. Today a more or less refined toolbox of ‘strategic persuasion’ was designed in order to deal with an increasingly influential and powerful China. Instead of engaging in a non-desirable and costly direct military opposition to China, the US tries to pull all the strings in order influence its behavior towards moderation particularly in East Asia. In so doing, Washington is encountering an expectation-perception gap. So far the strategy has not necessarily proven successful. In Beijing, strategic maneuvers were often not fully understood and responses did not turn out not as initially desired. The US’ pivot to Asia has aroused a primordial fear in modern China: containment by outside powers. With a return to more traditional language of balancing, in China the situation was better understood. Yet, the implication remains the same. China has in reaction adopted a more assertive stance in military affairs while gradually trying to limit political damage in the ASEAN framework.
In dealing with its maritime disputes, China has lately followed an intransigent approach to strengthen its sovereignty claims in the China seas (The East China Sea and South China Sea) Beijing asserts not only its sovereign right but also its actual control of those disputed islands. By regularly dispatching maritime patrol vessels and surveillance aircrafts to the surrounding waters and skies, China has brought the Huangyan islands from the Philippines back under its control and made what is referred to as 'dual control' of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands a new reality.