This article was published in Indian Journal of Asian Affairs 26, no.1–2 (2013): 23–36.

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Much attention has been paid to China’s determination to exert its influence over the East and South China seas using both political and military power. The final few weeks of 2013 saw a rapid deterioration of the diplomatic goodwill that China had built with its maritime neighbours over the past several decades, threatening regional stability and risking an arms race with the U.S., Japan, and Southeast Asia. This article draws on some snapshots of the latest sovereignty disputes in the East and South China seas and the bilateral ties across the Taiwan Strait to discuss the continuities and breakpoints in China’s strategic outreach in a multipolar world. It argues that the ability of China to pursue security interests in its maritime frontiers is largely contingent upon many circumstantial factors.