Alternative Strategies in the South China Sea

As part of the United States’ objective to stop China from engaging in island-building in the South China Sea, U.S. leaders have attempted to impose higher costs on China by sending warships and troops to the region and pursuing more substantial relationships with leaders in Southeast Asia. Writing for Cato at Liberty, Eric Gomez argues that U.S. policymakers should reconsider these strategies for dealing with China in the competition over the South China Seas.

So far, the United States has failed to deter China, a result which Gomez attributes to China placing a very high strategic value on the South China Sea. If this is the case, the United States would be forced to impose much higher costs to convince China to abandon its efforts.

Gomez further maintains that the United States should instead consider alternative strategies, such as a mutual agreement whereby the United States would not expand its military bases in particular locations in return for China not moving forward with island building. This would help ensure that Chinese leaders do not, as Gomez writes, “have more to gain from conflict than cooperation.”

When possible, the United States should look for diplomatic ways to resolve challenges instead of relying on the military as its primary tool of foreign policy.

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