China’s “Blue Dragon” Strategy Raises Territorial Tensions in Indo-Pacific

Indo-Pacific nations are facing heightened tensions with China as Beijing’s “Blue Dragon” strategy comes into focus. This strategy, named by analysts, involves a combination of military expansion, economic influence, and territorial claims that threaten the sovereignty of nations bordering the South China Sea (SCS), East China Sea (ECS), and the Indian Ocean.

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A key pillar of the Blue Dragon strategy is China’s expansive claims in the SCS. The recently updated “ten-dash line” encompasses nearly 90% of the SCS, directly conflicting with the territorial claims and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of several Southeast Asian nations. China’s use of its Coast Guard and naval vessels to intimidate and harass fishing boats and military patrols from these countries has raised concerns about freedom of navigation and access to vital resources.

The Blue Dragon strategy extends beyond the SCS. China’s long-standing territorial disputes with Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the ECS and with India over the Himalayan border regions remain unresolved. Additionally, China’s growing economic and military presence in the Indian Ocean, which it has renamed the “Western Pacific Ocean,” is seen by some as an attempt to counter India’s influence and secure vital trade routes.

The implications of the Blue Dragon strategy are far-reaching. Increased militarisation in the region raises the risk of accidental clashes and potential conflicts. Freedom of navigation in critical waterways could be restricted, impacting global trade. Smaller nations in the region may find themselves pressured to choose sides between China and other major powers.

Countries like India, Japan, and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are taking steps to counter China’s assertiveness. This includes strengthening their own militaries, forging closer partnerships with each other and the United States, and pushing for a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.

The situation in the Indo-Pacific is likely to remain volatile in the coming years. The success of the Blue Dragon strategy and its impact on regional security will depend on the responses of China’s neighbours and the international community.

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