6 April 2015

Sand Pebbles: Why Are Superpowers Squabbling Over Rocks?

APRIL 2, 201

Over the past year, Beijing has significantly raised the temperature in the South China Sea with a series of provocative actions that have unsettled nearby neighbors and furrowed brows in Washington. At question is just how the U.S. should respond to a frontal challenge that directly affects the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia without risking escalation or upending the need for broader cooperation between the world’s two great superpowers.

Since early last year, China has pushed drilling rigs into Vietnamese waters, built air-defense zones over disputed islands, and most recently has embarked on a massive land-reclamation effort on a spate of deserted reefs and rocks in the vital waterway. It appears to be part of a pattern of more assertive Chinese behavior that has intensified under the leadership of Xi Jinping, and it has policymakers, military leaders, U.S. lawmakers, and outside experts grappling with just how Washington should respond.

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