Until fairly recently, the Chinese were earning praise for their shrewd handling of Southeast Asia. Not anymore.

It’s a showdown at the South China Sea Corral — or so you might think if you’ve been listening to China’s state-run news media. On July 23, speaking at an ASEAN regional forum in Hanoi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that her government “supports a collaborative diplomatic process for resolving the various disputes” over the South China Sea. She also made a point of noting that the U.S. would be happy to offer its services as a mediator and that Washington opposes “the use or threat of force by any claimant.”

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