Evolution in China's South China Sea Policy Pocess: Pattern and Manifestation of Pluralization
Nur Shahadah Jamil 莎哈娜 博士候選人
The evolution in China’s South China Sea policy can be observed since the establishment of People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. Among these policy changes include the shift from ‘tactical assertiveness’ during the era of Hu Jintao to ‘strategic assertiveness’ under the current Xi Jinping’s administration with objective to strengthen China’s influence and control over the disputed waters. This can be seen via series of actions such as China’s increasing willingness to utilise People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and its non-military units in defending its sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea; decision to establish presence in Southern part of the Spratlys; controversial decision to tow Haiyang Shiyou 981 (HYSY-981) to disputed waters near Vietnam; as well as the increasing scale and speed in land reclamation and infrastructure constructions on features it occupied in the South China Sea. Transformation of this strategy is driven by the factor of pluralization, particularly proliferation of new actors, their power relations and complex interactions in all policy stages. Thus, this situation has led us to an interesting question: How does the degree, pattern and manifestation of pluralization in Beijing’s South China Sea policy process evolve from 1949-2017? This paper suggests that changes in the level of pluralization in China’s South China Sea policy can be explained with both structural factors such as United States’ pivot to Asia and the increase of China’s relative power vis-à-vis the United States, as well as domestic factors like performance legitimation, nationalist legitimation and charismatic legitimation. The degree and manifestation of such pluralization can also be measured via the parameter developed by the author in determining whether China’s South China Sea policy process should be labeled as a process of centralization, guided decentralization, instrumental decentralization, limited fragmentation or fragmented.