Paul Krugman, the Conscience of the Liberal, speaks


May 1, 2016

Paul Krugman, the Conscience of the Liberal, speaks on US Presidential Elections–It’s Hillary vs Donald in November, 2016

http://www.nytimes.com

Maybe we need a new cliche: It ain’t over until Carly Fiorina sings. Anyway, it really is over — definitively on the Democratic side, with high probability on the Republican side. And the results couldn’t be more different.

“Personalities surely played a role; say what you like (or dislike) about Clinton, but she’s resilient under pressure, a character trait notably lacking on the other side. But basically it comes down to fundamental differences between the parties and how they serve their supporters.”–Krugman

Think about where we were a year ago. At the time, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were widely seen as the front-runners for their parties’ nods. If there was any dissent from the commentariat, it came from those suggesting that Bush might be supplanted by a fresher, but still establishment, face, like Marco Rubio.

Secretary Hillary Clinton

Most Experienced and Prepared for the Job as US President and Commander-in-Chief

And now here we are. But why did Clinton, despite the most negative media coverage of any candidate in this cycle — yes, worse than Donald Trump’s — go the distance, while the GOP establishment went down to humiliating defeat?

Personalities surely played a role; say what you like (or dislike) about Clinton, but she’s resilient under pressure, a character trait notably lacking on the other side. But basically it comes down to fundamental differences between the parties and how they serve their supporters.

Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-and-switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.

First, about the Democrats: Their party defines itself as the protector of the poor and the middle class, and especially of nonwhite voters. Does it fall short of fulfilling this mission much of the time? Are its leaders sometimes too close to big-money donors? Of course. Still, if you look at the record of the Obama years, you see real action on behalf of the party’s goals.

Above all, you have the Affordable Care Act, which has given about 20 million Americans health insurance, with the gains biggest for the poor, minorities and low-wage workers. That’s what you call delivering for the base — and it’s surely one reason nonwhite voters have overwhelmingly favored Clinton over a challenger who sometimes seemed to dismiss that achievement.

And this was paid for largely with higher taxes on the rich, with average tax rates on very high incomes rising by about 6 percentage points since 2008. Maybe you think Democrats could and should have done more, but what the party establishment says and what it does are at least roughly aligned.

Things are very different among Republicans.Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — which even Republican voters don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatising Social Security and Medicare.

What Donald Trump has been doing is telling the base that it can order a la carte. He has, in effect, been telling aggrieved white men that they can feed their anger without being forced to swallow supply-side economics, too. Yes, his actual policy proposals still involve huge tax cuts for the rich, but his supporters don’t know that — and it’s possible that he doesn’t, either. Details aren’t his thing.

Establishment Republicans have tried to counter his appeal by shouting, with growing hysteria, that he isn’t a true conservative. And they’re right, at least as they define conservatism. But their own voters don’t care.

If there’s a puzzle here, it’s why this didn’t happen sooner. One possible explanation is the decadence of the GOP establishment, which has become ingrown and lost touch. Apparatchiks who have spent their whole careers inside the bubble of right-wing think tanks and partisan media may suffer from the delusion that their ideology is actually popular with real people. And this has left them hapless in the face of a Trumpian challenge.

Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the GOP’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American President (who the establishment, dominantly White, has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.

The point, in any case, is that the divergent nomination outcomes of 2016 aren’t an accident. The Democratic establishment has won because it has, however imperfectly, tried to serve its supporters. The Republican establishment has been routed because it has been playing a con game on its supporters all along, and they’ve finally had enough.

And yes, Trump is playing a con game of his own, and they’ll eventually figure that out, too. But it won’t happen right away, and in any case it won’t help the party establishment. Sad! ― The New York Times

– See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/new-york-times/article/wrath-of-the-conned-paul-krugman#sthash.YoCCQiWB.dpuf

 

Whither ASEAN–The View of a Pessimist?


April 30, 2016

Whither ASEAN–The View of a Pessimist?

by Philip Bowring

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/obituary-association-southeast-asian-nations/

As 2016 chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Laotian People’s Democratic Republic is leading the group toward political irrelevance. And that is doubtless how China, the hand controlling the Laotian glove puppet, would like to see it.

The three minnows of ASEAN, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos, have just undermined ASEAN’s efforts to present some sort of a united front questioning China’s claims and activities in the South China Sea. Feeble though these have been, with endless talk of a developing a Code of Conduct making scant headway, they have at least been commonly agreed.

Meanwhile China has continued aggressive actions, reclaiming land, driving Filipinos from the Scarborough Shoal which lies well within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and sending fleets of fishing boats protected by armed Coast Guard vessels operating 1,000 miles from the China coast to steal the fish from the exclusive zones of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

But creating facts in the sea while stalling the Code of Conduct, is not sufficient for China. On April 24 in the Laotian capital Vientiane, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced, with an understandable sense of triumph, that an “important consensus” had been reached with the three that disputes over the South China Sea should be resolved entirely on a bilateral basis and not involve ASEAN.

According to the Chinese, the consensus criticized any efforts to “unilaterally impose an agenda on other countries” and vowed that national sovereignty would prevail over the regional grouping. None of the other parties has contradicted Wang.

Timed for Hague Decision 

This China-created “consensus” was timed in advance of the decision expected in June from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on a Philippine case against China. Beijing refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the court but needs to find some diplomatic support given that the court is widely expected to rule largely in the Philippines’ favor.

The statement also comes at a time when Indonesia, which long claimed not to be involved in the South China Sea disputes, is making more determined efforts to protect its fisheries and is growing concerned about the proximity of China’s nine-dash line claim to its gas fields off the Natuna islands.

In February, ASEAN expressed serious concern about developments in the South China Sea, with only Laotian and Cambodian opposition preventing a stronger statement. But now the three minnows have effectively said that neither ASEAN nor international courts play any role in regional issues.

In which case, why bother to treat ASEAN as having any political or diplomatic role? Just leave ASEAN as a loose economic grouping with some extra benefits such as visa-free travel and stop pretending that it is anything more. It has long been clear that the overriding national interests of the states abutting the South China Sea were not fully shared by Myanmar or Thailand, let alone landlocked Laos.

As it is, tiny Laos with its long Chinese border, is already the focus of massive Chinese investment and is a bridgehead for the advance of Chinese road and rail systems into Thailand. The Hun Sen regime in Cambodia was installed by the Vietnamese (?) but has come increasingly under Chinese influence thanks to money and historic Khmer suspicion of Vietnam.

Brunei Sultan Blazes Islamic Path

As for Brunei, making sense of the decisions of its autocratic Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is never easy. Two years ago he announced that full Islamic law would be introduced in three stages, culminating in such features as cutting off limbs and stoning adulterers and homosexuals. At the same time, he is trying to reduce dependence on oil and make his petty kingdom into an Islamic version of Singapore, which would call for a far more open society than he consents to envision. All this is very confusing particularly given the Brunei royal family’s past reputation for gross extravagance and as a paradise for beautiful rent-seeking women who dare serious sexual harassment from randy royal children.

Brunei’s EEZ is known to contain oil and gas it needs to replenish its dwindling reserves. Much of its 200-mile EEZ lies within China’s nine-dash line so Brunei’s interest should be in expressing solidarity with Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. But Chinese money may have been more persuasive. Or the Sultan may figure that being a tool of China makes it less likely that Brunei, population 250,000, will eventually be swallowed by Malaysia or Indonesia.

The current divide makes it a good occasion to re-think both the name and the concept of the region. The very name Southeast Asia is of recent creation – by the British in the 1940s to describe territories occupied by Japan from Burma (previously part of British India) to the Philippines vis so-called Indochina, the Malay Peninsula and the Indian (or Malay) Archipelago (Indonesia). ASEAN in turn was invented in the 1960s as an anti-Communist bloc from which grew something bigger but more oriented towards trade.

ASEAN Minus Five?

Trade cooperation is still needed but as a political tool for its three largest states, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, which between them account for 75 percent of its population, ASEAN is now counter-productive. Likewise Malaysia needs close South China Sea allies not merely to defend its own islands and exclusive zones but to protect the integrity of a nation divided by roughly 600 km of sea, some of which lies within China’s nine-dash line.

In other words, these four states plus Brunei, if it could be released from the clutches of a newly medieval ruler, need a new grouping, could find sensible compromises on their own overlapping claims and confront China with a firm and united voice.

Convincing Indonesia of the merits of such as idea would be difficult. Jakarta not only hosts the ASEAN secretariat, such as it is, but harbors a sense that it is both the leader of the group and voice of moderation on all issues. That may have been the case in the past when it still basked in its non-aligned legacy and China was on the margin of regional affairs. But now China’s power and expansionist interests have divided ASEAN and made a myth of Indonesian assumptions of quiet leadership.

Wang Yi’s April 24 statement was a blunt description of a reality that has long been evident but fervently denied by foreign ministries in many capitals wedded to ASEAN illusions. It can be denied no longer. China has spoken: ASEAN is irrelevant.

Cambodian PM Hun Sen’s Cabinet reshuffle sends a strong signal


April 5, 2016

Cambodian PM Hun Sen’s Cabinet reshuffle sends a strong signal: The Nation

The departure of veteran Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong represents a milestone in the nation’s recent political and diplomatic annals. Prime Minister Hun Sen has never reshuffled his Foreign Ministry in this way.

by Kavi Chongkittavorn

The Nation/ Asia News Network

While the country’s attention has zeroed in on other senior Cabinet member rotations and dismissals, Phnom Penh-based ASEAN diplomats are watching carefully what could be the ramifications of the latest Hun Sen moves – both on the domestic and foreign policy fronts.

Indeed, such a large number of reshuffled posts normally needs to go through the ruling Cambodia People’s Party’s deliberations beforehand, but this time the reshuffle did not.

 Apparently, the region’s longest-serving premier wanted to use this opportunity to gauge internal support as he pushes through candidates. Certainly, eyebrows were raised among top party’s echelons.

The new Foreign Minister appointment, Mr Prak Sokhon, who previously served as Post and Communications Minister, comes at a critical time as Cambodia suffers the consequences of political mishaps in July 2012 and the dismal election of 2013.

When Cambodia held the ASEAN chairmanship, Mr Hor Namhong refused to issue a joint communique – even though ASEAN had been through at least 18 drafts concerning the situation in the South China Sea – to soften ASEAN’s stance on the issue.

The minister also insisted on turning down suggestions from his Indonesian and Singaporean colleagues who tried to help, but in vain. Subsequently, Cambodia was harshly criticised by other members and dialogue partners.

More than officials would like to admit, Mr Hun Sen has to take the blame himself, quietly out of respect for the senior minister, who served at one time as his Foreign Policy mentor.

Make no mistake, by opting for Mr Prak Sokhon, who was his former adviser, Mr Hun Sen wanted to send a strong signal to ASEAN and the international community that this non-aligned country is back with a fresh foreign policy outlook.

Mr Prak Sokhon currently holds the presidency of the Institute of Research and Analysis Group, a think-tank belonging to Mr Hun Sen. Under his leadership, four policy trends are emerging as far as external relations are concerned.

First, Cambodia’s foreign pathway will be more moderate – no more the adventurism of the past or the dramatic turnarounds in bilateral relations. It will adhere to the principles of the non-aligned movement, which King Sihanouk co-founded in the 1950s with other newly independent countries.

Cambodia will adopt a more multi-directional foreign policy that will increase its profile regionally and internationally through non-traditional security cooperation, such as peacekeeping and landmine clearing, among other activities.

Mr Prak Sokhon will follow a clear pattern of diplomacy that will seek friendly relations with all. Unless we forget, it was the UN-backed peace plan in 1991 that made Cambodia the country as we know it today.

Some Cambodian officials have borrowed the term “dynamic equilibrium” – first used by former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa – to describe the country’s future diplomatic outlook.

Second, from now on Cambodia will maintain a delicate balance between major powers, especially the first tier partnerships affecting China and Japan and the second tier between China, the US and the EU.

For the past three years, Mr Hun Sen has successfully maintained a stable relationship with China and Japan, especially with the latter after a brief slump in relations in 2012.

Now Cambodia has formed strategic partnership ties with the two Asian giants, although the former is more competitive.

As for relations with the West, Mr Hun Sen has Mr Prak Sokhon’s job cut out for him.He could further strengthen ties with the US and Europe, especially with second-rank investor the United Kingdom. After the Sunnylands summit, Cambodia has also occupied a higher standing in Washington’s scheme of things.

Third, Cambodia’s integration into the ASEAN Community economy remains a top priority for Mr Hun Sen.He wants to make sure that his ASEAN legacy is kept intact and not blemished by South China Sea conflicts – of which Cambodia is not a party.

Starting with the first time Cambodia held the ASEAN chair in 2003, Mr Hun Sen has left a strong legacy in ASEAN, acting as a balance between old and new ASEAN members.

Although Cambodia was the last to be admitted in 1999, its influence was far larger because it was a more open country.With a freer economic and political atmosphere, Mr Hun Sen’s voice was loud.

Phnom Penh’s scorecard of AEC implementation was above average. Among ASEAN members, Cambodia is quite liberal in its financial and service sectors. In addition, Mr Prak Sokhon can reconnect with ASEAN to boost “Asean Centrality”, calling for more consultations between ASEAN colleagues, with whom he would certainly have a better rapport.

At the moment, Cambodia wants to push key ASEAN agenda items on narrowing the development gap, promoting small and medium-size enterprises, and connectivity.

Finally, Cambodia’s relations with neighbouring countries have developed markedly, especially with Thailand and Vietnam. In the past two years, Thai-Cambodia links have improved greatly since the former’s coup in May of 2014. Both sides have embarked on new projects that could improve Thai investment and migrant workers’ welfare in Thailand.

Both sides also continue to discuss ways to implement recommendations by the International Court of Justice in The Hague over the Phreah Vihear/Praviharn Temple – without resorting to violence as before. Border cooperation has increased and so has border trade. Hun Sen and his Thai counterparts get along very well.

The new leadership line-ups in Vietnam and Laos also augur well for Cambodia’s foreign policy orientation. Squabbling over the construction of dams and protection of the environment has died down. Now all the lower Mekong riparian countries are poised to intensify their cooperation and increase overall engagement with China.

South China Sea Tensions Likely to Get Worse Before They Get Better


March 25, 2016

South China Sea Tensions Likely to Get Worse Before They Get Better

Diplomatic Punch: Ambassador to Asylum


February 28, 2016

Diplomatic Punch: Ambassador to Asylum

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

UNITED NATIONS – Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, a former US Permanent Representative to the UN (1961-1965), was a renowned intellectual of his generation, known as much for his riveting speeches as his political witticisms.

A two-time Democratic presidential nominee, he once declared that the social life of a UN diplomat is characterised by three elements: alcohol, protocol and Geritol (a high potency B-vitamin dietary supplement meant for energising low-energy diplomats). The breakdown, according to another diplomat, was 97 percent alcohol, two percent protocol and one percent Geritol.

But anecdotes apart — and there were plenty going around at the delegate’s lounge, the official UN watering hole — one of the most trying things was to get an on-the-record quote on a politically sensitive issue. Permanently on a leash, tightly held by their governments or their foreign ministries, most diplomats assigned to the UN were quick to make bland and predictable statements but never off-the-cuff remarks worthy of tabloid headlines.

In contrast, US politicians are distinctly media savvy. When the US failed to get elected to the UN Human Rights Commission (now called the Human Rights Council), Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (Republican of California) expressed his indignation over the fact that the US was left out in the cold while some of the world’s worst human rights violators were voted into office. “The inmates,” he hollered, “have taken over the asylum.”

That statement was every headline writer’s dream. “Revolt at the UN”, screamed the New York Times. “Tyrants Take Over,” shouted the Wall Street Journal. And the Washington Times reduced the Human Rights Commission to a “Commission of Rogues”.

Back in 1975, when President Gerald Ford refused to bail out a cash-strapped New York City with federal funding to avoid bankruptcy, the New York Daily News ran the story with the immortal headline: “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Still, I don’t foresee any UN-based diplomats — least of all a Sri Lankan Ambassador — telling the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights or the Secretary-General: “Go to Hell,” on even milder language. After all, as someone once remarked, diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell — in a way they look forward to the trip.

The lingering and unanswered question for a such a strong response is: “Why aren’t you taking the Americans, the Brits, the French and the Russians to a war crimes tribunal for all the slaughtering of civilians and bombings of hospitals going on in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya?.”

As a general rule, juicy quotes are hard to come by at the UN, but with one exception. At myriads of daily cocktail parties and regular national day receptions, some diplomats tend to drop their defences while holding onto their pants. Still, it is rare to get a political scoop that can be attributed to an individual diplomat or an ambassador. And so when journalists do get a story, it is usually attributed to an unnamed Western or a Third World diplomat “speaking on condition of anonymity.”

At the news agency I work for, there is a time-honoured rule that every feature story should– as far as possible — have at least one or two sources quoted by name. The New Yorker magazine, best known for its biting cartoons, once ran an illustration of the Evil Queen in the Snow White fairy tale who looks at the Magic Mirror and implores: “Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, who is the fairest of them all?.” And then, adds: “And I want two sources quoted by name.”

Getting a juicy on-the record quote from a senior UN official was even more difficult than getting a quote from a UN diplomat. But Shashi Tharoor, a former UN Under-Secretary-General (USG) and later an Indian Parliamentarian from Kerala and State Minister, once said every UN official, from a USG to a window-washer, is entitled to express his or her own opinion — but in their area of competence. But that rule died an unnatural death.

Ambassador Palitha Kohona (2006-2009) was one of only two Sri Lankan UN officials (the other being Ambassador John de Saram, Director of the UN Office of Legal Counsel), who graduated from the UN to the post of Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN. (Incidentally, there has never been a Permanent Representative (PR) who was really permanent, although there have been rumours of some PRs leaving their handkerchiefs on their seats when going to the toilet, indicating the seat is occupied, particularly when there is a change of government at home.)

A former Chief of the UN Treaty Section, Kohona held the post of Permanent Representative (2009-2015) embodying a mix of both — and making it doubly difficult to get a headline-grabbing, on-the-record quote from him (although he was an Australian citizen when he headed the Treaty Section and later held dual citizenships — even as he wondered whether he should cheer Sri Lanka or Australia at the ICC World Cup cricket finals in Barbados in 2007. Rumour has it he cheered for Sri Lanka, the losing side, in the company of a “cricket-crazy” President).

Perhaps some of the best scoops from Kohona came with a dire warning: “Not for Attribution” or “Strictly Off-the-Record.” Asked for a quote on a politically controversial issue, he said: “No comment.” And then, provided the punchline: “And don’t quote me on that.”

When he was Foreign Secretary, he apparently had a running battle with a Sri Lankan envoy based in Western Europe. So, he was more than happy when the envoy finished his three year term and was due to pack his bags and return home. Since I was aware of this thorny relationship, I mischievously tried to get a rise out of Kohona by asking him whether he was planning to send this ambassador on a cross posting. “Yes,” came the email reply, “to Angoda.”

I had heard of Sri Lankan ambassadors abandoning their home countries to seek political asylum in Europe and the US — but never mental asylum. As Hollywood would have it: one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/160228/sunday-times-2/diplomatic-punch-ambassador-to-asylum-184579.html

Foreign Policy: Dealing with an assertive China


February 23, 2016

Foreign Policy: Dealing with an assertive China in the South China Sea

by Masayuki Masuda
National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS), Tokyo

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/02/20/why-has-chinese-foreign-policy-become-more-assertive/

China’s rise as a quasi-superpower represents the most important change in the international system in the 21st century. China is now widely viewed as the de facto strategic rival of the United States and a potential challenger to US global supremacy, particularly in the Asia Pacific.

Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers march during a military parade. (Photo: AAP)

Many observers have described Chinese diplomacy as newly and increasingly assertive in the wake of rising tensions in the South China Sea. How should we understand this ‘new’ assertiveness?

China’s assertive foreign policy has often been understood as a response to the 2008–2009 global financial crisis. In July 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao delivered a speech to a national envoy meeting, insisting on the need to increase Chinese power and influence in the international arena. Hu referred to the strategic guideline usually abbreviated as taoguang yanghui, yousuo zuowei — ‘keeping a low profile and achieving something’ (KLP/AS) — coined by Deng Xiaoping in the early 1990s. Hu further stressed this policy, stating that China should ‘insist upon keeping a low profile and proactively achieving something’.

While the full text of Hu’s speech has not been made public, the People’s Daily, the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s Central Committee, stressed that China should pursue ‘four strengths’ in its foreign policy. That is, China should attain greater influence in international politics, strengthen its competitiveness in the global economy, cultivate ‘more affinity in its image’ and become a ‘more appealing force in morality’.

Since then, there appeared to be a significant contradiction between the PRC’s officially announced intentions and the external behaviour of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and maritime law enforcement agencies. Some China-based official media criticised in 2011 the neglect of an indispensable part of its strategy — keeping a low profile.

As Xi Jinping has consolidated power, this picture has changed. Xi Jinping has not mentioned the KLP/AS dictum. Rather, he calls for fenfa youwei (‘striving for achievement’ or SFA) to realise the ‘Chinese dream’ on the world stage, and particularly in China’s peripheral diplomacy. The Chinese dream is a vision of the Chinese nation rejuvenated as a prosperous country with a powerful military.

Xi has tried to rebuild domestic foreign affairs and security institutions, including by establishing the Central National Security Commission (CNSC) in January 2014. The CNSC, headed by Xi, is intended as a top-level body for improving interagency coordination and developing a holistic national security strategy.

President Xi — who is General Secretary of the CCP and chairman of both the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the CNSC — has played an increasingly dominant role in foreign and security policymaking and interagency coordination among the Party, the government and the PLA.

Xi’s SFA declaration does not have much in common with the phrase ‘keeping a low profile’. Rather, SFA stresses the need to safeguard China’s national sovereignty and security interests as well as economic success. According to Tsinghua University Professor Yan Xuetong, Xi’s SFA strategy aims to achieve a favourable environment for China’s national rejuvenation. This differs fundamentally from the KLP strategy, which aims to create an international environment conducive to economic development.

Xi sees his country as a major power on the world stage. In an October 2014 speech, Xi presented the concept of ‘major-power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics’. This was the first time in many decades that Beijing’s leadership has described China’s diplomacy as that of a ‘major power’.

China has put the SFA strategy into practice through its proposal for a ‘new type of great power relations’ between China and the United States, through the One Belt, One Road initiative for connectivity in Eurasia, and through Xi’s pledge to contribute 8000 troops to a UN peacekeeping standby force.

The Asia Pacific region is the core of China’s current foreign and security policy activities. Xi said in 2013 that China should aim to promote political relationships, solidify economic bonds, deepen security cooperation and intensify cultural exchange in the region. This announcement was followed by China’s proposals to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund.

The region is full of potential traditional threats for China, including the territorial and maritime boundary disputes and the US rebalance to Asia. The latter is seen in Beijing as the biggest obstacle to resolving the territorial disputes in China’s favour. Protecting maritime sovereignty and rights has become a top policy priority, on par with maintaining regional stability.

Xi stressed the importance of safeguarding national sovereignty in China’s periphery both at the 2013 Periphery Diplomacy Work Meeting and the 2014 Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference. China’s current reclamation and construction efforts in the South China Sea are regarded in China as part of the SFA strategy. In the words of Admiral Sun Jianguo in May 2015, they are ‘legitimate and justified’ activities.

Although China’s land reclamation efforts could improve the country’s ability to maintain military operations in the region on a day-to-day basis, they arguably violate the general spirit of cooperation and self-restraint embodied in the 2002 South China Sea Declaration of Conduct. It has become clear that China has adopted a more heavy-handed approach to the maritime territorial disputes in the region.

China’s ‘new’ assertive behaviour since 2012 should be understood as a unified, intentional development by Beijing. China has emerged as a major strategic power and Beijing’s emphases on sovereignty, security and its great power status reflect this. Now, and in the years to come, the Chinese dream will be played out on the world stage.

Masayuki Masuda is Senior Fellow at the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS), Tokyo. He is also a visiting scholar at the East-West Center and a visiting academic at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS), Honolulu.