Japan's and China's Strategies for Maritime Diplomacy in Southeast Asia, 1945-2014: Identifying Prospects for Cooperation

Author: Emily Bienvenue

Bienvenue, Emily, 2015 Japan's and China's Strategies for Maritime Diplomacy in Southeast Asia, 1945-2014: Identifying Prospects for Cooperation, Flinders University, School of History and International Relations

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The current geopolitical environment in maritime Southeast Asia is an area of escalating concern for regional and extra-regional stakeholders, International Relations (IR) scholars and maritime security experts. While maritime sovereignty disputes are a major issue, power shifts within the region have contributed to increasing strategic competition. The intersection of rival interests and strategies is manifested in the maritime domain where tensions run high. A growing body of literature identifies the need for greater strategic trust, with maritime cooperation prescribed by many as a measure for strategic trust building between states in Southeast Asia. These theoretical and practical prescriptions provide a roadmap for maritime cooperation. This thesis investigates effective mechanisms for maritime diplomacy through a comparative analysis of Japan’s and China’s maritime cooperative strategies. Consequently, it expands on the current literature, and supplements existing recommendations for cooperation.

The Straits of Malacca (SOM) and the South China Sea (SCS) provide the context for the examination of Japan’s and China’s maritime cooperative strategies. Empirical case studies of these two stakeholders over the period from 1945 to 2009 form the basis by which to assess the coherence of the existing framework for maritime cooperation. A corresponding analysis finds functional approaches to maritime cooperation to be an effective mechanism for the advancement of trust and cooperation in the region. Furthermore, this thesis demonstrates how constitutive factors in states’ strategic thinking must come together to support effective cooperative strategies. The coherence of Japan’s interests and preferences underpinned its functional approach to cooperation. Conversely, China’s pluralism has constrained its cooperative disposition and its efforts towards maritime cooperation in the SCS. As a consequence strategic mistrust has prevailed in this area. For as long as China’s territorial objectives take rank, tensions will remain, with far reaching implications for regional peace and stability. This too is the case for Japan in the ECS and Takeshima/Tokdo disputes where the ongoing advancement of its maritime claims in the disputes areas obfuscates the prospects for maritime cooperation.

Keywords: cooperation, maritime cooperation, confidence building, trust, incrementalism, sovereignty, maritime disputes

Subject: International Studies thesis, International Relations thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of History and International Relations
Supervisor: Dr Maryanne Kelton