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Centre for Geopolitics

Providing historically-grounded solutions to enduring geopolitical problems
South China Sea historic map

Co-hosted by the Centre for Geopolitics, University of Cambridge and Institute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley

The Public Forum offers a policy-oriented discussion of the main findings from the Cambridge-UC Berkeley conference on Maritime Asia: Securing the China Seas, which positions China as a maritime actor through an interdisciplinary approach that examines the evolving context of time and space:

We interpret how the Chinese state under imperial, Republican, and Communist governments has conceived of territoriality beyond land, their sources of strength and vulnerabilities at the boundary conditions, and how the state’s evolving self-understanding as a maritime power has shaped its interactions with transnational agents such as merchants and migrants, and other Asian and Western powers.

We demonstrate concrete mechanisms in China’s projection of commercial and political power over sea, focusing on how state and non-state actors build maritime networks, and integrate or compete with Western networks and institutions.

A critical dimension in China’s maritime ambitions has been the adaptation of foreign frameworks and languages for defining its national interests, which is manifested recently in controversies over applications of the law of the sea and freedom of navigation. This process is fraught with elite political imperatives of reconciling the Middle Kingdom’s long-term self-conception of its centrality in the regional moral and political order with diplomatic balancing acts for co-existence with neighbours and external great powers.

From the perspectives of Japan, Taiwan and other countries in the region, we argue that their counter-strategies to great powers’ increasing presence in the East and South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait indicate a strong regional demand for improved governance – presently seen in the rising policy discourse on the “rules-based liberal international order” and “free and open Indo-Pacific”. British and European interests in this discourse show the fundamental connectedness of the China Seas to oceans and sea lanes of communication around the world, amply demonstrated in our historical case studies, in defining geopolitical and human security interests.

The Panel of Scholars include:

Professor Pär Cassel, University of Michigan

Professor Yuichi Hosoya, Keio University

Professor Melissa Macauley, Northwestern University

Professor Chi-Ting Tsai, National Taiwan University

Professor Wen-hsin Yeh, UC Berkeley


Moderator: Dr Kun-Chin Lin, Centre for Geopolitics, University of Cambridge

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Thursday, 12 August, 2021 - 16:15 to 18:15
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