China and the South China Sea Conflict: A Case for Confucian Strategic Culture?

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Chinese actions in the South China Sea are often viewed as proof of an assertive China, despite the Chinese claims that their Confucian values make China a peaceful power. This paper analyzes the South China Sea conflict through a prism of strategic culture theory and examines both the Chinese narrative on the conflict as well as the actual Chinese behavior in the area. Confucian norms and values provide a powerful rhetoric device utilized by the Chinese policymakers to legitimize the Chinese behavior to the domestic and to some extent also foreign audiences. However, the actual Chinese behavior rarely exhibits strong influences of Confucianism, suggesting that in actual behavior China acts in accord with realist predictions.

Journal: The Journal of Indian and Asian Studies

Author: Matej Šimalčík

Issue: vol. 1, no. 1

DOI: 10.1142/S2717541320500023

China and the South China Sea Conflict:

A Case for Confucian Strategic Culture?

  • Matej Šimalčík’s research looks at China’s economic and political presence and ‎influence in Central Europe, elite relations as well as the role of European legal ‎instruments in dealing with China. ‎ He has a background in law (Masaryk University) and international relations (University ‎of Groningen). ‎ Since April 2021, Matej is as a visiting EU China Policy Fellow at Mercator ‎Institute for China Studies (MERICS). He is also a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of ‎Great Britain and Ireland and a contributor to the European Think-tank Network on ‎China (ETNC) and MapInfluenCE initiatives.‎ Previously, he was an in-house legal counsel at the Slovak branch of Transparency ‎International, a global anti-corruption watchdog, where he focused on promoting ‎transparency and countering corruption in the judiciary, legal tools for countering ‎corruption (freedom of information laws, whistleblowing, etc.), and strategic litigation ‎in public interest cases. He also practices law in Slovakia, where he focuses mostly on ‎competition, compliance, and administrative litigation.‎