Using the Scarborough Shoal standoff between China and the Philippines as a case study, in this article I examine two approaches to addressing territorial disputes—power politics and liberalism- legalism. China, a major power, uses realpolitik to press its expansive claim in the South China Sea. The Philippines, a small power, adopts the liberal-legal approach that seeks to balance against China. During the standoff, China drove the Philippines out of the shoal, though stopping short of an armed clash, and effected a de facto occupation of the contested area. As a countermeasure, the Philippines filed a statement of claim with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The confrontation was a test of Thucydides’s age-old aphorism that “the strong do what they have the power to do, and the weak accept what they have to accept.”


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pp. 71-100
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