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Issue Date: 6-Apr-2020
Citation: GAN QIAO YI DORCAS (2020-04-06). CHINA’S HYBRID WARFARE IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA, 1974-1995. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: In 1974, China battled with South Vietnam over the Crescent Group of islands in the Paracels. It emerged from the battle with little causalities, and newfound control over the entire Paracels. In 1988, China again clashed with Vietnam at Johnson South Reef located in the Spratly archipelago. China suffered only one casualty and successfully occupied six rock formations in the Spratlys by April 1988. Still, China continued to make inroads into the Spratlys. In 1995, China discretely occupied Mischief Reef located near the Philippines. Filipino discovery of the occupation and China’s refusal to vacate the reef consequently triggered a high-profile naval standoff in May. However, the Philippines eventually backed down, allowing China to retain control of the reef. These three historical episodes underscore a calculated and effective Chinese strategy that scholars have longed to understand. I contend that the PRC’s actions in the South China Sea can be characterised as a form of hybrid warfare, rather than grey-zone warfare, as is currently popular in the literature. China’s manoeuvres in the South China Sea showed that it was willing and able to use overt force to defend its claims across all three conflicts. The former two conflicts against Vietnam witnessed over seventy casualties. Although the latter conflict against the Philippines did not escalate into a bloody episode, China was ready to use force if needed. Thus, I assert that hybrid warfare more accurately characterises Chinese manoeuvres in the South China Sea. I also propose refinements to current understandings of hybrid warfare. As it stands, the term seems to apply to a military theatre of operations and kinetic military action. However, I argue that an actor wages a hybrid war on various fronts. In addition to its military actions, China also utilised diplomatic, informational, and material weapons, as well as paramilitary actors to change facts on the ground and further its aims in the South China Sea.
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses

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