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China and the United States


Institutional Affiliation


China and the United States

The South China Sea plays an important role in the world economy. It deserves the priority of experts who seek to undervalue and seldom debate on its significance in the world economy. Researchers argue that as China continues to transform as the fastest emerging economy, the South China Sea will continue to pose a challenge to the U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific region (Fravel, 2011, p.293). It forms the geographical pivot of the global commerce industry. Regional economists estimate that about ninety percent of the commercial goods used to pass through the South China Sea as they enroute to other continents.

The interests of the United States concerning this significant global geographical focal point are two-fold: access and stability (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2014, p.152). Firstly, great proportion of the world economic goods uses the South China Sea to enter the Asian economies. Secondly, military economists argue that the U.S. Maritime power is vulnerable given to the rapid transformation of the China’s technology and economy. In fact, the disputed route is the base that the emerging economy utilizes to challenge the U.S. naval domination (Fravel, 2011, p.300). This situation is likely to escalate and bring tension, that can pose a threat to the vital sea lines of communication. The U.S. remains the chief guarantor of the world freedom of sea navigation (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2014 ,p. 153). In this regard, the profound and enduring interest of ascertaining that sea lines of communication remains open for business and peaceful military activities. The United States acknowledge the fact that continued and rapid modernization of the China’s military can render them vulnerable.

Given the declining numbers of the U.S. naval military that stand at 284 (down from 600) and China’s adoption of new technologies, the United States is likely to lose the credible sea control of the South China Sea Line Communications (SLOCs) (Eichler, 2014, p.84). China is likely to implement anti-access and area-denial capabilities that will disrupt the propositions regarding the Indo-Pacific region (Fravel, 2011, p.295). Moreover, the United States is not a member of the ASEAN conflicts that revolve around territorial claims based on their coastlines. For this reason, China fails to accept any external intervention (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2014, p.352). This situation presents a high degree of tension between the United States and China, that if unresolved can stir a war.

Despite the enduring conflicts facing different nations, researchers maintain on the need for them to be engage in negotiations (Acharya, 2014, p.647). There are various reasons that oblige countries involved in disputes to negotiate (Fravel, 2011, p.297). One of them is to indicate that the states are committed to the cooperative processes. Second, choosing not to engage in war compels states to involve principled positions and political concerns of other nations (Acharya, 2014, p.297). Third, the two nations that strive to embrace political negotiations demonstrate a mutual interest in better relations (Buszynski, 2012, p.140). The remarks of the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, urge for multilateral solutions for the conflicts of the ASEAN stirred trouble among the most of Chinese citizens. The United States is not a party to the enduring conflicts involving the ASEAN states that include maritime powers and territorial claims. In this regard, China terms Clinton’s remarks as unreasonable and irrelevant. This situation has caused the escalation of tension between the U.S. and China relations (Buszynski, 2012, p.155). China’s interests in the troubled coastline include the control of the Indo-Pacific regional economy and protecting the off-shore oil fields.

Despite the long-lasting disputes involving divergent economic and political interests between the two powerful nations, none has employed military actions to change the situation regarding the conflicts revolving around the South China Sea. The countries that are party to the disputed territorial claims and maritime control have existed peacefully. There have been no reports of war regarding the territorial and economic conflicts since 2002 (Eichler, 2014, p.83). Therefore, the United States rationale in trying to alter the approach in resolving the territorial claims seemed unsupported. Most Chinese interpreted the U.S. approach as an intention to replace Asia as a responsive strategy to the emerging China.

Research shows that the U.S. prominence and influence has declined markedly following the rise of China of its trade position in the Asian economy. In fact, today China is the leading trade partner in the Asian region (Buszynski, 2012, p.144). The U.S. decline of influence has economic repercussions on its position in the regional economy and the foreign policy of the superpower. Policy makers, hence, might have come up with the multilateral approach to resolve the ASEAN territorial disputes (Eichler, 2014, p.90). Nonetheless, despite the rising tensions between the Chinese people and the U.S government, numerous factors reduce the chance for them to be involved in a war. These factors are discussed in the section that follows.

There are numerous theories that explain the causes of war. Scholars assert that the prevalence of international conflict appears where bargaining for the power takes place. The international system will always face disputes. The resolution of a certain dispute is the outcome of international bargaining power. Interstate level theories explain that war tends to break out when a rising power threatens a declining regime in the overall position (Eichler, 2014, p.88). From a statistical viewpoint, some theorists focus on effects of democracy, government structure, trade, international organization, and related variables in studying the advancement of interstate disputes to war (Eichler, 2014, p.91).

In a global perspective of international conflicts, researchers show that the outcome of a conflict is less likely to stir up war. This position draws on the fact that the world today has reached high levels of technological development and the international relation norms (Buszynski, 2012, p.150). The complexity of the world today renders war and the use of military force superseded. Murphy and Toshi (2015, p.25) argue that in the wake of globalization, which has revolutionized international relations, there appears decreasing isolation while increasing interdependence of global relations. The authors add that war in this century can result in devastating economic effects around the globe. Additionally, the sophistication of modern military, including nuclear and biological weaponry is too powerful to use in modern interstate conflicts (Murphy & Toshi, 2015, p.14).

From the different theoretical explanations of the causes of war, it is evident that the different conflicting interests regarding the South China Sea are less likely to result in war between the two nations (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2014, p.156). For this reason, China has for a long period employed delayed mechanisms in claiming ownership of the South China Sea. China has not waged war based on the grounds of the long-standing ASEAN dispute. Any war between the China military on the inside and the U.S military of the seaside can damage the economic significance of the rising China and the superpower (Fravel, 2011, p.354).

Also, some scholars argue that war over the South China Sea can disrupt sea lines of communication and the facilitation of trade (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2014, p.234). The increased transformation of China can face the drawbacks of war and destroy the world’s biggest emerging economy. According to the global level of theoretical explanations of the declining likelihood of conflict-based war, these two nations have reached high levels of modernization. As such, going to war can be retrogressive.



Acharya, A. (2014). Global international relations (IR) and regional worlds. International Studies Quarterly58(4), 647.

Buszynski, L. (2012). The South China Sea: Oil, maritime claims, and US–China strategic rivalry. The Washington Quarterly35(2), 139-156.

Eichler, M. (2014). Militarized masculinities in international relations. Brown Journal of World Affairs21(1), 81-93.

Fravel, M. T. (2011). China’s strategy in the South China Sea. Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs33(3), 292-319.

Goldstein, J. S. & Pevehouse, A.C. (2014). International relations 2013-2014 update (10thEd). D.C.: Massachusetts.

Murphy, M. N., & Toshi, Y. (2015). Fighting the naval hegemon. Naval War College Review68(3), 12-39.


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