China’s Behavior in Maritime Dispute with its Neighbors: The Double-edged Sword Model
Cha, Victor D
This paper presents the “double-edged sword model” as a theoretical explanation for China’s puzzling behavior in maritime disputes with its neighbors. This paper argues that two factors are salient in determining a state’s strategy vis a vis its maritime neighbors: (i) increasing tensions with a third party and (ii) the perceived alignment behavior of the maritime neighbor. This paper argues that a state prefers a cooperation or escalation strategy rather than a delay strategy when there are rising tensions with a third party. Although rising tensions with a third party motivates the state to move from a delaying strategy, it would still be ambivalent between escalating or cooperating with its maritime neighbor. This necessitates the inclusion of a second variable. This paper argues that whether a state chooses cooperation or escalation depends on how a state perceives the alignment behavior of its rival claimants at the time. For China, this occurred with the United States’ pivot to Asia in 2009. Whether China escalated its maritime dispute or decided to cooperate depended on how it perceived the alignment behavior of its maritime neighbors, South Korea and Japan.
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