Foreign Affairs
China-US Power Struggle: Safety Concerns in South and East China Seas

The US is focusing on strategic competition with China in the South and East China Seas, despite China’s major security concerns in its neighborhood. A report by the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) highlights that the South China Sea has become the hub of US-China strategic competition in the past 10-15 years, while China’s actions at the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea are another concern. The report suggests that Chinese domination could significantly impact US strategic, political, and economic interests in the Indo-Pacific region.

The South and East China Seas are at the center of a geopolitical power struggle between the US and China, causing safety concerns for neighboring countries and the international community. The conflict has escalated as both superpowers assert their dominance in these strategically vital waters.

The delicate balance between economic dependence on China and security ties with the US leaves neighboring countries vulnerable. The international community must prioritize reducing tensions and finding diplomatic solutions to ensure safety and security in the region. The stakes are high for global trade, stability, and the future of the Indo-Pacific region. A peaceful resolution to these disputes is crucial to ensure safety and security over confrontation and conflict.

The conflict revolves around territorial disputes between China, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian nations. China’s South China Sea claims, known as the “nine-dash line,” encroach upon neighboring waters, leading to disagreements. Japan and China are also in a bitter dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

The United States has been actively involved in disputes in the Indo-Pacific region due to its commitment to international law, freedom of navigation, and the protection of its allies. This has led to increased military presence, diplomatic efforts, and alliances to counter China’s growing influence.

The US has a vested interest in maintaining open sea lanes and preventing any single nation from controlling them. China’s expansion in the South and East China Seas is seen as part of a broader pattern of assertive behavior in the region, and the US is concerned about Beijing’s disregard for international law, which it believes threatens regional stability and undermines the rules-based international order.

China claims territorial rights in the South and East China Seas, arguing they are integral to its territory and defending its interests. In response to increased US presence, China has militarized artificial islands in the South China Sea, established an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, and developed advanced military capabilities. Additionally, China has strengthened economic ties with neighboring countries through initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The US-China naval rivalry is posing safety risks due to close proximity to military exercises, patrols, and surveillance activities. Mistakes or misunderstandings could lead to dangerous confrontations. The assertive actions of both superpowers have placed neighboring countries in a precarious position, as they balance economic dependence on China with security partnerships with the US, making them vulnerable to the changing dynamics of great power competition.

The South China Sea dispute has been addressed through international mechanisms like ASEAN and the United Nations, but resolving the issue remains challenging due to entrenched positions of major players. The international community, including the European Union, has called for peaceful negotiations, adherence to international law, and diplomatic solutions. Regional leaders have also called for a Code of Conduct to manage disputes, but implementation remains elusive due to ongoing power struggles.

China-US competition in the South and East China Seas is a pressing issue, with China’s growing national security concerns potentially leading to a collision with the US’s pursuit of global hegemony. The US’s aggressive approach could lead to further confrontations and potential deterioration of bilateral relations.

ASEANChinaCRSEast China SeasSouth and East China SeasSouth China SeaUnited StatesUS