In the South China Sea territorial disputes, China has shifted from a delaying strategy characterized by strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity and an increasingly assertive stance. Yet, this power play, asserting sovereignty over a large portion of the South China Sea, has not prompted a decisive push-back from regional states or major powers, raising the question of what kind of norms China will bring to the regional order and indicating the difficulty of building rules-based order in a region characterized by unbounded power politics in a twenty-first-century Hobbesian struggle.

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