The professionalism displayed by China’s navy in some of the world’s most contested seas is masking an underlying challenge to the existing order in the East China Sea and South China Sea that must be resisted, according to a report by an Australian security think tank.

“Beijing’s newly acquired taste for maritime ‘rules of the road’ is lowering the risk of accidental conflict,” wrote Ashley Townshend and Rory Medcalf in a report published Friday by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy. “In turning away from tactical aggression, Beijing has refocused on passive assertive actions to consolidate a new status quo in maritime Asia.”

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