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Confrontation and cooperation in the East China Sea: Chinese perspectives
Oliver Bräuner, Joanne Chan and Fleur Huijskens
SIPRI Policy Brief

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In 2014 tension in the East China Sea has been characterized as being significantly reduced. In addition, a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the November 2014 Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing marked the re-establishment of top-level bilateral exchanges between China and Japan. Based on a four-point principled agreement, both sides announced in January 2015 that they intended to launch a maritime and air crisis management mechanism as soon as possible.

This Policy Brief analyses Chinese perspectives on the risk of both accidental and intentional incident and collision in the East China Sea and on potential crisis management mechanisms that might help to avoid escalation and build trust between the two sides. The authors argue that, despite the tensions in recent years, many Chinese analysts and officials are keenly aware of the potentially catastrophic consequences of such incidents and have proposed a number of concrete measures to enable a return to a more cooperative relationship between China and Japan.

Additional information

This Policy Brief forms part of a series on promoting crisis management in the East China Sea.

The Introduction to the series provides background information for understanding aspects of addressing maritime security in the East China Sea from the perspective of crisis management. Specifically, it gives overarching context to the four SIPRI Policy Briefs published in February 2014 on the same topic, which focus on how to avoid collisions at sea or in the air and how to prevent escalation when incidents do occur. They document the two-year period between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2015, which was characterized by high tension between China and Japan in relation to the East China Sea. During this time, the two countries finally agreed to resume their negotiations on a maritime crisis management mechanism, but whether they can reach a robust and sustainable agreement remains an open question.

The papers conclude a two-year project supported by the MacArthur Foundation that enabled SIPRI to host high-level track 1.5 maritime security dialogues in Stockholm with significant Chinese and Japanese participation. For this project, SIPRI also received support from the Japan Institute of International Affairs and China’s National Defence University. We express our gratitude for this support. As with all SIPRI publications, the views expressed in the four policy briefs are those of the authors.

Related publications

Kotani, T., ‘Crisis management in the East China Sea’, SIPRI Policy Brief, Feb. 2015.

Zhang, T., ‘Building trust between China and Japan: lessons learned from bilateral interactions in the East China Sea’, SIPRI Policy Brief, Feb. 2015.

Duchâtel, M. and Huijskens, F., ‘The European Union’s principled neutrality on the East China Sea’, SIPRI Policy Brief, Feb. 2015.


Oliver Bräuner (Germany) is a Researcher with the SIPRI China and Global Security Project. His research interests include maritime security in East Asia, the protection of Chinese citizens in overseas conflict zones and security cooperation between China and the European Union.

Joanne Chan (Hong Kong SAR/China) was a research intern with the SIPRI China and Global Security Project. Her research interests include Chinese foreign aid and trilateral cooperation.

Fleur Huijskens (Netherlands) is an Associate Researcher with the SIPRI China and Global Security Project based in Shanghai. Her research interests include regional and maritime security in East Asia and security cooperation between China and the European Union.

Publisher: SIPRI
8 pp.
February 2015


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