March 03, 2024

The South China Sea Is the Next Test of US Resolve

Source: Bloomberg

Journalist: Andreas Kluth

The two nations are not yet close to going to war. But collisions and clashes can easily escalate. China’s truculence therefore raises the question: Under what circumstances should the US show up to back its ally, with the attendant risks of a conflagration?

It’s tempting to argue, as Lyle Goldstein at the think tank Defense Priorities does, that America “should not go to war over rocks or reefs or shoals.” But there’s more at stake than fish, coral and sand, as Jacob Stokes at the Center for a New American Security told me. The stakes are both similar to those in today’s other conflicts and different.

The South China Sea, like the Red Sea, is one of the world’s busiest waterways, with more than $3 trillion in goods passing through every year. Allowing China to fortify the sea to a point where it can close off maritime trade to specific countries in the event of a war would seem poor strategy. But China wouldn’t do that at first; it would merely seize shoals and reefs.

Read the full story and more from Bloomberg.


  • Jacob Stokes

    Senior Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program

    Jacob Stokes is a Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific Security Program at CNAS, where his work focuses on U.S.-China relations, Chinese foreign and military policy, East Asian ...