Dividing ASEAN and Conquering the South China Sea

China’s Financial Power Projection


Daniel C. O’Neill

ISBN : 978-988-8455-96-6

Politics, Government, Public Administration

September 2018

276 pages, 6″ x 9″, 7 b&w illus. and 6 tables

  • HK$395.00

The “ASEAN Way” is based on the principle of consensus; any individual member state effectively has a veto over any proposal with which it disagrees. Dividing ASEAN and Conquering the South China Sea analyzes how China uses its influence to divide ASEAN countries in order to prevent them from acting collectively to resolve their territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Using comparative case studies of China’s relations with Cambodia, the Philippines, and Myanmar, O’Neill argues that the regime type in the country with which China is interacting plays an important role in enhancing or constraining China’s ability to influence the governments of developing states within ASEAN and globally. Authoritarian institutions facilitate Chinese influence while democratic institutions inhibit that influence.

O’Neill argues that as long as ASEAN includes developing, authoritarian regimes, and given that the United States and other global powers are unlikely to risk any serious conflict over each push of China’s maritime boundaries, little by little, China will assert its sovereignty over the South China Sea. Nevertheless, noting the long-term, global trend of states democratizing, he contends that if China chooses to engage in more sophisticated bilateral politics, such as providing incentives to a broader range of interest groups in democratic states, then China will have more success in projecting its power globally.

Daniel C. O’Neill is an associate professor of political science in the School of International Studies at the University of the Pacific. He publishes widely on the politics of economic globalization and the effects of political institutions on the choices of domestic actors.

“Professor O’Neill’s well-crafted and theoretically sound assessment of China successfully dividing ASEAN in pursuit of claims in the South China Sea also shows important variations in China’s regional influence dependent notably on the degree of authoritarianism and democracy in Southeast Asian governments.” —Robert Sutter, professor of practice of international affairs, George Washington University

“There are plenty of books looking at various aspects of the South China Sea issue, but I am not aware of any that duplicates the approach of this book. It is a useful addition to our understanding, both of the specific issue and of the broader theoretical implications which it raises.” —Richard Rigby, professor and executive director, China Institute, the Australian National University