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China’s ever increasing presence in the world economy has seen its frame of reference for assessing threats undergo a “colour shift” from focusing on the “yellow” (continental) land and “brown” (coastal) waters to emphasising the “blue” (high) seas. Meanwhile, its armed forces, in particular its navy, have embarked on a comprehensive long-term strategy to upgrade their capabilities both quantitatively and qualitatively. China’s maritime security precautions, “routine” or otherwise, have made many in the region and the world anxiously speculate about the extent to which it may use military measures to secure a free transit of its seaborne commerce and access to maritime resources in Asia’s disputed waters, and to deny sea control to extra-regional powers. Yet as the Chinese are still wrestling among themselves with the definition of “rise”, “peace”, “security” and “threat”, they have not been able to come up with a convincing explanation for how China’s military build-up is in keeping with its “peaceful” aspiration. As a result, China and its official policies are not yet able to escape the dilemma of “threat to China” and “China threat” in addressing its maritime security concerns in Asia and beyond.
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