Exposing China’s Actions in the South China Sea
China is advancing toward its goal of establishing administrative control over much of the South China Sea. This trend is heightening regional concerns about the reliability of the United States, and enhancing China’s coercive leverage over the commercial and military activities of surrounding countries.
If left unabated, the cumulative effect of China’s expanding influence in the South China Sea will make it increasingly difficult for the United States to defend its interests in Southeast Asia: U.S. security partnerships will weaken, the U.S. military will be left with fewer access and presence agreements, and neither regional institutions nor international law will substantially constrain China’s behavior.
To prevent these outcomes, it is vital for the United States to implement a comprehensive set of policies that include military, economic, and diplomatic elements. As part of a broader strategy for the South China Sea, the U.S. government should initiate information operations that hinder China’s ability to expand and consolidate its control of the waterway and the airspace above it. Specifically, the U.S. Congress should require the U.S. State Department to provide regular public reports on China’s military and coercive activities in the South China Sea.
Greater transparency would help to counter China’s deceptive propaganda about its own behavior, elevate the issue in regional and international forums, and compel regional governments to respond more vigorously to China’s actions. The resultant collective international pressure and evident diplomatic and security costs for China could lead Beijing, as it has at times in the past, to recalibrate and adjust its actions in the South China Sea. Read More
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