Can China Defend a "Core Interest" in the South China Sea?

Toshi Yoshihara, James R. Holmes
Content Type
Journal Article
The Washington Quarterly
Issue Number
Publication Date
Spring 2011
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Déjà vu surrounds reports that Beijing has claimed a ''core interest'' in the South China Sea. High-ranking Chinese officials reportedly asserted such an interest during a private March 2010 meeting with two visiting U.S. dignitaries, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and the senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, Jeffrey Bader. Subsequently, in an interview with The Australian, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disclosed that Chinese delegates reaffirmed Beijing's claim at the Second U.S.—China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, a gathering held in Beijing in May 2010. Conflicting accounts have since emerged about the precise context and what was actually said at these meetings. Since then, furthermore, Chinese officials have refrained from describing the South China Sea in such formal, stark terms in a public setting.
Political Geography
United States, China, Asia, Australia