Author Date

2019-12

Degree Name

BA

Department

Political Science

College

David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies

Defense Date

2019-12

Publication Date

2019-12

First Faculty Advisor

Eric Hyer

First Faculty Reader

Jon Felt

Second Faculty Reader

Robert Griffiths

Honors Coordinator

Eric Hyer

Keywords

South China Sea, Grand Strategy, China, Strategic Ambiguity, Maritime Strategy, Boundary Disputes

Abstract

China’s goals in the South China Sea are twofold: to expand sovereignty while keeping the peace. I argue this is accomplished through rhetorical strategic ambiguity and military clarity, which have characterized China’s maritime grand strategy since 2010. Using confusion and clarity—two seemingly opposite strategies—allows China to simultaneously expand sovereignty and maintain peace. This paper first introduces the literature and theory behind grand strategy and strategic ambiguity. It then demonstrates how China’s intentions are made clear through military actions, then shows that China’s rhetoric is ambiguous to members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by weighing evidence that China is unintentional in its ambiguity against evidence showing this is a deliberate strategy.

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