Naming and Shaming China: America's Strategy of Rhetorical Coercion in the South China Sea
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 42, Number 3, December 2020
- pp. 317-345
- Additional Information
States adopt public "naming and shaming" as a rhetorical coercion strategy in-lieu of kinetic force in order to get other countries to comply with accepted norms. However, the effectiveness of this strategy has been uneven and at times has failed to elicit the response desired by the rhetorical coercer. The South China Sea dispute is a good example of rhetorical contestation as an important undercurrent in USChina competition. By tracing rhetorical exchanges—from the Obama administration's subtle rhetorical coercion to the Trump administration's overt naming and shaming strategy—this article shows that the US-China rhetorical contestation over the South China Sea has evolved from an initial implication contest into a framing contest, both of which are considered as "unstable outcomes" in rhetorical contestation. Such outcomes show that far from backing down, China has been able to resist and strategically counter American naming and shaming. This was accomplished in three ways. First, by exploiting the ambiguity of the international law frame. Second, by portraying the United States as an "outsider". Third, by appealing to its audience—the littoral states of Southeast Asia—with a publicly sustainable new narrative.