Since 2012, the Chinese Communist Party has conducted a dual policy in the South China Sea. On the one hand it has centralized the management of maritime disputes with a series of institutional reforms, including the consolidation of the State Oceanic Administration and the creation of a corps of national coast guards. On the other hand, it seems to have increased the power of Hainan, the country’s southernmost province, to intervene in the case of conflict. Beyond the ambiguous claims that Beijing makes on the South China Sea, it has made unilateral efforts to integrate some islands and reefs located in these waters to its bureaucratic apparatus. In this project, Hainan Province serves as Beijing’s outpost in the South China Sea. While Hainan has gained prominence in recent years, it is more a tool for Beijing than an autonomous actor in the management of international disputes.
Juliette Genevaz is the China expert at the Institute for Strategic Research in Paris (IRSEM). She conducts research on Chinese security issues, with a particular focus on the country’s Western and Southeastern borders. She holds a PhD in Politics and International Relations from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford and an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies from Pembroke College, University of Oxford. She has taught Chinese Politics and Comparative Government at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.