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Fishing Boat Diplomacy

How Maritime Cooperation Can Help U.S.-Chinese Relations

Fishing vessels sail in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor, July 2012.  Siu Chiu / Reuters

One of the greatest risks to world peace is a clash at sea between the United States and China. The risk of confrontation has grown steadily as Chinese power has increased, and especially since 2012, when China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, took power and introduced a far more assertive approach to China’s disputed territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. In East Asia’s littoral regions, China’s naval capabilities now rival those of the United States, and Beijing has proved itself increasingly willing to threaten close U.S. allies such as Japan with belligerent rhetoric. Most alarming, Beijing has cast territorial disputes in sharply nationalistic terms, promising Chinese citizens that compromise will not be tolerated. Xi seems to have abandoned former leader Deng Xiaoping’s view, expressed on a 1978 visit to Japan, that China’s maritime claims were “not an urgent issue” and that “if our

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