My latest at the Diplomat investigates the reputational issues associated with China’s oil rig in the South China Sea:
Who blinked? Who cares?
China’s decision to remove an oil rig from waters disputed by Vietnam has stirred a considerable degree of attention, almost as much as China’s decision to deploy the oil rig in the first place. Should the move be understood as indicative of a Chinese lack of nerve? Did the policy to intimidate Vietnam fail? Did Vietnamese legal and military efforts force China to “blink” and thus rethink its maritime resource strategy in the region?
As I’ve argued many times in this space and others , policymakers and analysts waste an inordinate amount of time thinking about the reputational costs of their actions. A reputation for resolve supposedly contributes to credibility, which impresses friends and deters potential foes from doing things that we don’t like.