How Biden Should Handle the South China Sea Disputes
Krista Wiegand, 2020
The future of U.S.-Chinese relations may well hinge on disputes in a distant sea where the United States has no direct claims of sovereignty or unique maritime rights. The South China Sea is arguably at the crux of future U.S.-Chinese great-power relations. In addition to the critical Taiwan issue, the South China Sea is the arena where competing paradigms are clashing and the chance of war is more likely than anywhere else. While China views the South China Sea as the cornerstone on which to make its ambitions to become a superpower concrete, the United States sees the dispute as a key part of its security strategy and goal of strengthening alliances and strategic partnerships in the region. The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden is unlikely to seek confrontation with China the way that President Donald Trump’s administration did. Yet, the new administration should seriously consider continuing some of the current U.S. strategies in the South China Sea, including strong support for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states, strong condemnation of China’s illegal actions in the disputed sea, and support for disputants’ deterrence by denial capabilities. In any case, the administration should make it clear to China that the United States will not be leaving the region anytime soon.