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A nation must think before it acts.
Energy security has prompted China to turn its strategic gaze to the seas for the first time in six centuries. For now, Taiwan remains Beijing’s uppermost priority, but there are signs that Chinese leaders are already contemplating the “day after” matters in the Taiwan Strait to resolve them to their satisfaction. In the meantime, China is attempting to shape the diplomatic environment in vital regions such as Southeast and South Asia using “soft power.” By invoking the voyages of Zheng He, the Ming Dynasty’s “eunuch admiral,” Beijing sends the message that it is a trustworthy guarantor of Asian maritime security. But the success of this soft-power strategy remains in doubt.