In the past decade, tensions in Asia have risen as Beijing has become more assertive in maritime disputes with its neighbors and the United States. Regional leaders have expressed concern that Chinese “gray zone” coercion threatens to destabilize the region by undermining the rules-based order and increasing the risk of conflict. Yet, despite the threat posed to regional security and prosperity, the United States and its allies and partners in East Asia have struggled to develop effective counters to maritime coercion. The inability of U.S. policymakers to deter coercive actions or to articulate a coherent gray zone strategy has raised questions about Washington’s ability to protect U.S. interests, to integrate China into the international order, and to maintain existing alliance commitments. As a result, experts in the United States and in East Asia are searching for new approaches to counter coercion in the East and South China Seas.
A new CSIS study, Countering Coercion in Maritime Asia: The Theory and Practice of Gray Zone Deterrence, reviews the academic literature on deterrence, examines recent incidents of gray zone coercion, and draws lessons for policymakers. The authors hope that this analysis will provide insights to current and future leaders in the United States and East Asia about how to strengthen regional security and international order in the years ahead.
In addition to the full report, summaries of eight of the nine case studies are available on AMTI:
Case 1: Harassment of the USNS Impeccable (2009)
Case 2: Senkaku Islands Trawler Collision (2010)
Case 3: Scarborough Shoal Standoff (2012)
Case 4: Senkaku Islands Nationalization Crisis (2012)
Case 5: East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (2013)
Case 6: Second Thomas Shoal Incident (2014)
Case 7: China-Vietnam Oil Rig Standoff (2014)
Case 8: “Top Gun” Incident (2014)
Case 9: Spratly Islands Land Reclamation (2013–) (unabridged case study only)