Rising Tensions: China’s Assertiveness In The East China Sea – OpEd


In recent times, China’s forceful behavior in the Taiwan Strait and Japan has had far-reaching consequences, causing considerable concern among governments and international observers on a worldwide scale. The increase in these belligerent actions, mostly carried out by the Naval Forces and Air Force of China, has raised concerns and undermined the existing state of stability in these areas.

This essay undertakes a thorough investigation, examining the origins and consequences of China’s assertive posture. The objective of this analysis is to examine the present conditions in Taiwan and Japan, providing valuable perspectives on the challenges these countries encounter as a result of Chinese assertiveness. Moreover, it examines the involvement of the international community in addressing this matter. The main contention put forth is that, in adherence to the One China Policy, the international community should actively engage in promoting peaceful resolutions and upholding international law to restore balance in these areas. This approach would strengthen the principles of diplomacy and cooperation in the global arena.

The growing assertiveness exhibited by China in the Taiwan Strait and Japan has garnered significant international apprehension. The military exercises conducted by China near Taiwan, encompassing incursions by aircraft, naval maneuvers, and the issuance of threats, have significantly escalated tensions within the region (Talmadge). Taiwanese fighter jets engage in the interception of Chinese aircraft, specifically H-6 bombers, near the region of Taiwan. The Shandong Carrier Strike Group of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is currently operational in the Philippine Sea. Its activities are being closely observed by both the Republic of China Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. The aforementioned destabilizing conduct has led Taiwan to establish more robust alliances, namely with the United States, to counter prospective threats. Similarly, the acts of China have been a subject of dispute in Japan, particularly over the issue of sovereignty about the Senkaku Islands situated in the East China Sea (Yennie Lindgren and Lindgren). China has persistently deployed its naval vessels into the maritime boundaries of Japan, demonstrating a contempt for Japan’s territorial sovereignty and international legal norms governing marine affairs. This recurring behavior has resulted in strained ties between China and Japan, as well as an escalation of tensions within the region.

The connection between the Taiwan Strait and Japan is a multifaceted matter, characterized by the developing tensions and challenges to Taiwan’s sovereignty resulting from China’s growing assertiveness in the region. The 2020 research conducted by the International Crisis Group emphasized China’s naval and air activities near Taiwan, resulting in Taiwan’s pursuit of enhanced security alliances with the United States and other regional partners (Zhang). China’s assertive conduct encompasses its aspirations in the maritime domain, as evidenced by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative’s documentation of China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea (Turcsányi). This development has sparked apprehensions regarding China’s adherence to international law, as well as the concerns highlighted in the US Department of Defense’s annual reports on China’s military capabilities.

            In the same fashion, the Senkaku Islands issue has been examined through research undertaken by The Japan Institute of International Affairs, providing valuable insights into the situation in Japan. The RAND Corporation’s examination of Japan’s changing defense posture highlights that China’s recurrent encroachments into Japanese waters have not only strained the bilateral relations between the two nations but have also compelled Japan to enhance its maritime defenses (Levin). China’s recent activities, as observed and documented by the East Asia Research Centre, have had notable ramifications on the security of the region. These operations include the deployment of a large fleet of fishing boats and government vessels near the disputed islands. Moreover, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has emerged as a central aspect of contention. The analysis conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute emphasizes the significance of adhering to the rules outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), particularly about exclusive economic zones and territorial waters, as a means to peacefully resolve disputes (Powell and Mitchell).

The international community must develop a strategy focusing on peaceful resolution and the preservation of international legal norms in response to China’s assertive behavior in the Taiwan Strait and Japan. Diplomatic interaction is crucial, with the guidance of global and regional actors, facilitating constructive conversations among China, Taiwan, and Japan to find peaceful solutions (Singh). Effective conflict resolutions, such as the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, demonstrate the importance of negotiation and compromise. Diplomatic channels should be employed to create a favorable atmosphere for conversation and confidence-building measures. Adherence to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is also essential. The resolution of the maritime dispute between Peru and Chile demonstrates the effectiveness of upholding international law in achieving peaceful resolutions (Caligiuri). Ensuring a diplomatic and legal framework promotes enduring resolutions, regional equilibrium, and nonviolent conflict resolution by global society.

In conclusion, the assertive conduct exhibited by China in the Taiwan Strait and Japan poses a significant and urgent problem. To sustain regional security, it is imperative for the international community to actively participate in diplomatic endeavors, taking cues from previous instances of conflict settlement such as the Good Friday Agreement. Concurrently, it must adhere to international legal principles, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as exemplified in the maritime conflict between Peru and Chile. Through the promotion of peaceful discussion and adherence to established standards, the international community can alleviate tensions, protect sovereignty, and reaffirm its dedication to resolving disputes peacefully in these crucial regions.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.


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Simon Hutagalung

Simon Hutagalung is a retired diplomat from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and received his master's degree in political science and comparative politics from the City University of New York. The opinions expressed in his articles are his own.

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