29 April 2016

Shifting Waters: China’s New Passive Assertiveness in Asian Maritime Security

Ashley Townshend and Prof Rory Medcalf, Shifting Waters: China’s New Passive Assertiveness in Asian Maritime Security (Sydney: Lowy Institute, 29 April 2016).

In this Report, Ashley Townshend and Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow Professor Rory Medcalf examine China’s evolving maritime security conduct. They argue that China’s less confrontational but more strategically assertive behaviour has paradoxical implications for regional security, lowering the risks of unintended clashes but making it harder to prevent China from consolidating a new maritime status quo.


China has recently dialled back its aggressive maritime conduct and begun to embrace confidence-building measures to avoid dangerous incidents at sea, refocusing instead on passive assertive forms of intimidation.

China is using tactical stability to strengthen its strategic position in maritime Asia at lower levels of risk, shifting the burden of escalation to the United States and its regional partners.

Responding to China’s passive assertive challenges requires a multidimensional, coordinated, and ongoing international effort to shape its behaviour through indirect costs and incentives linked to China’s reputational, strategic, and economic interests. …


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