Some thoughts on the South China Sea dilemma of Sino-U.S. relations

HUANG Fengzhi1,2 LIU Rui1

(1.School of Public Administration, Jilin University)
(2.Co-innovation Center for State Governance, Jilin University)

【Abstract】The “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea” is the “Sunday punch” of America’s Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy towards China. Avoiding the trap of “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea” is a real challenge that China has to face in defending national sovereignty, maintaining international law, and realizing the dream of maritime power. America is conducting vessel or aircraft freedom of navigation operations under the guise of maintaining the “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.” Its purpose is to maintain American hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region. The essence of the dispute between China and the U.S. over the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is the competition of strategic contradictions and strategic interests between the maritime hegemon and the new-type maritime power. Its legal inducement is the cognitive differences on the principle of freedom of navigation. It is also the continuation of “Freedom of the Seas” of idealism and “Freedom of Navigation Program” of realism. The continuous fermentation of the “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea” issue can result in serious impacts on China’s maritime military security, expanding maritime strategic space and the public opinion environment of the rise in the sea. China should think of ways to solve the issue against the background of the maritime power strategy. Firstly, China should maintain strategic focus, and strive for the period of strategic opportunities to build itself into a maritime power. Secondly, China should strengthen the strategic dialogue with the U.S., and build a stable mechanism of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Thirdly, China should take diplomatic initiative in international public opinion, maritime legal order and regional maritime public goods, and promote the construction of islands and reefs in the South China Sea appropriately in a timely manner.

【Keywords】 Sino-U.S. relations; South China Sea disputes; freedom of navigation; “excessive maritime claims”; historical maritime rights; island construction; maritime power; order in the South China Sea;


【Funds】 Key Project of National Social Science Foundation of China (13AGJ003) Graduate Innovation Fund of Jilin University (2016142) Major Research Program of Philosophy and Social Science Foundation of the Ministry of Education in 2016 (16JZD027)

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This Article


CN: 22-1180/C

Vol 26, No. 02, Pages 35-46+127

March 2017


Article Outline


  • 1 Sino-U.S. game on “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea” issue
  • 2 U.S. constraining China’s dream of maritime power with “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea”
  • 3 Some thoughts on U.S. imposing costs on China’s maritime rise in the South China Sea
  • References