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Politics

What does China really want in the South China Sea?

Historical myths, defense strategy and economic interests all play a role

| Vietnam
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  © Reuters

The question of what China actually wants in the South China Sea is surprisingly little studied in the West. Too many international analysts seem happy to make assumptions about China's strategic and tactical motivations without reference to Chinese statements or documents.

A preoccupation among U.S. strategists, in particular, about freedom of navigation, the safety of allies and the maintenance of a rules-based order dominates most English-language writing about the dispute. Too often they project the same motivations onto the "other" and interpret Chinese actions accordingly.

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