The South China Sea and Indo-Pacific in an Era of “Multipolar” Competition: A More Targeted EU Response?
A longstanding territorial dispute between claimants in the South China Sea now finds itself nested within a new imagined “Indo-Pacific” region, which itself has become a key theatre in a deepening great power conflict. The EU is geographically distant and a relative newcomer to the strategic terrain in these two regions, yet it cannot afford to ignore them given their crucial economic and geopolitical importance. While the EU’s ability to reduce the constraints on its freedom of manoeuvre is limited, the Union should nonetheless gradually nurture its strategic autonomy by carving out a delineated hard security role in the South China Sea while maintaining a degree of distance from the US approach towards China and the Indo-Pacific.
1. The EU’s role in the region
1.1 The EU’s role across time
1.2 Features of EU regional engagement
2. The impact of multipolarity and other constraining factors
2.1 Multipolar competition in practice
2.2 Implications and complicating factors
3. Mitigating strategies
3.1 Playing the geopolitical game
3.2 Tools and priorities