Indonesia’s Fishing Boat Incident and Tensions in the South China Sea: A View from the United States

China’s building of infrastructure on land features in the South China Sea is a strategy to gain control over the area incrementally, without triggering actual war. That strategy has, so far, succeeded in large part due to Beijing’s effective use of ambiguity and because fears of unwanted escalation have tended to outweigh fears of Chinese expansion. A recent incident in Indonesian waters involving China’s coast guard is unlikely to cause a significant hardening of Jakarta’s posture toward Beijing.