HomeWild Blue YonderArticle Display

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.

The Threat of PRC Domination in the South China Sea

Wild Blue Yonder / Maxwell AFB, AL --


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

Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea is best illustrated by China’s construction of man-made islands tailored to military-specific functions.
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
VIRIN: 200423-F-YT915-0001

(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


USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

Wild Blue Yonder Home