The views and opinions expressed or implied in WBY are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the Department of Defense, Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government or their international equivalents.
By Cadet Holden E. Strausser
/ Published April 27, 2020
Displayed most prominently and unmistakably by the COVID-19 outbreak, China has demonstrated that its actions, through intentional deceit or gross negligence, can threaten US interests at home and abroad, as well as those of our allies and the rest of the world. It is, therefore, of vital import that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is not permitted to expand its control over the international stage. Yet, the PRC seeks to command territory that is adjacent to its own, specifically Pres. Xi Jinping’s baseless claims over the South China Sea (SCS) within the “nine-dash line,” which extends south past Vietnam and almost to the coast of Malaysia.1
There are many instances of Chinese aggression displayed in the SCS, including firing lasers at US aircraft, causing collisions or near collisions with US and allied vessels, and the construction of artificial island military bases on coral reefs in the Spratly Island Chain.2 Although the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has legally referred to the nine-dash line map as a “piece of trash paper,” China has completely rejected the UNCLOS ruling.3 To date, nothing, including US Navy Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP), has been a suitable deterrent to Chinese expansion.4
Man-made islands (Photo 2 of 2)
Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea is best illustrated by China’s construction of man-made islands tailored to military-specific functions.
Photo By: Dr. Ernest Rockwell
(Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer)
Figure 1. Man-made islands. Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea is best illustrated by China’s construction of man-made islands tailored to military-specific functions.
A new potential ally could be Vietnam.5 Although Vietnam has strong economic ties with China, Chinese aggression against Vietnamese territory may force Hanoi to change its essentially neutral stance and force it to align with the United States. Meanwhile, the Philippines, a longstanding US ally, is planning to end its Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.6 Additionally, the SCS is important economically for US allies Japan and South Korea.7
Improving the relationships with allies in the region will be instrumental to holding back China. The United States has much to lose, including trust with allies worldwide and influence in the region. America needs to lead in this region, lest the PRC gain another bastion of supremacy on the global stage and thereby another means to damage the global community.
Cadet Holden E. Strausser
Cadet Strausser is a second-year Air Force ROTC cadet at Detachment 915 out of West Virginia University. Homeschooled until college, he was recently selected as the recipient of an AFROTC In-College Scholarship as well as a university Scholarship of Distinction and Reed College of Media Dean’s scholarship. He will soon be a graduate of WVU’s Honors College. A journalism major and history minor, Strausser has published multiple articles in WVU’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum, where he worked as its fact checker. He is on track to graduate in 2022 with a BS and MS in journalism through the university’s 4+1 program.
1 Panos Mourdoukoutas, “Vietnam Shows Malaysia And The Philippines How To Fight The South China Sea Wars,” Forbes, 16 November 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2019/11/16/vietnam-shows-malaysia-and-the-philippines-how-to-fight-the-south-china-sea-wars/#6c5ea1d4e9db
2 “Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea,” Associated Press News, 9 March 2020, https://apnews.com/d5a7775ceb466ccb761eecafa0d85520
3 Richard Javad Heydarian, “US loses a march to China in South China Sea,” Asia Times, 5 November 2019, https://asiatimes.com/2019/11/us-loses-a-march-to-china-in-south-china-sea/
4 Eleanor Freund, “Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea: A Practical Guide,” Belfer Center, June 2017, https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/freedom-navigation-south-china-sea-practical-guide
5 Benjamin Wilhelm, “Could China’s Aggression in the South China Sea Boost U.S.-Vietnam Relations?” World Politics Review, 8 April 2020, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/28669/could-china-s-aggression-in-the-south-china-sea-boost-u-s-vietnam-relations
6 Drake Long, “Threat to Terminate US-Philippine Pact Resonates Around Southeast Asia,” Radio Free Asia, 30 March 2020, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/usa-philippines-03302020182118.html
7 Marvin Ott, “The South China Sea in Strategic Terms,” Wilson Center, 14 May 2019, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/the-south-china-sea-strategic-terms
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