China’s Maritime Policies Increase Tensions With Neighbors


I recently attended a panel on China’s Maritime Disputes at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), featuring Elizabeth Economy (director of Asia Studies at CFR) and Adam Segal (Senior fellow on China at CFR), and moderator Gideon Rose (editor of Foreign Affairs and author).  They were a lively group, with varying opinions on the politics of China. I suppose I was expecting a slightly more conservative and buttoned up presentation, but the room was mostly full of students –- know your audience. A little light heartedness goes a long way.

I have to admit China has never been my main area of research and what I know about China is in relation to United States (U.S.) and world economics, basic political structure, human rights violations and its move into Africa for badly needed resources. I really had no idea about the current maritime situation with China’s neighbors and what that could potentially mean for the U.S. in the future. China also redrew its map to include territories belonging to Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. These disputes also affect India’s trade routes and U.S. bilateral defense treaties with the Philippines and Japan and a lot of other complicated international relationships between states (countries).

I also leaned much more about specific leaders in China and if they have true reformers in the party. Elizabeth Economy says yes, that reformers are hidden in the system biding their time, while the highly pessimistic Adam Segal scoffed at the notion that China has any reformers. Ms. Economy also suggested that there are not any communists left in China’s communist party. It was a great discussion for someone with much background on the situation.

The conversation eventually segued to the U.S. government shutdown, which might seem odd, but President Obama had several trips to Asia planned that had to be canceled when the shutdown occurred. He has been criticized for a lack of interest in engaging and committing to relationships that former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton built.

Aside from China, I also learned that CFR has a comprehensive section on its website that has a lot of tools geared for students, including videos, research, access to CFR scholars and more. Since I live in an academic bubble, I can never have too many resources.


The Council on Foreign Relations website is pretty comprehensive and gives an overview and videos on policy, history, regional disputes and statistics.


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