The South China Sea: A Geopolitical Analysis

  •  Martin D Mitchell    


Since 1945 the South China Sea and the western Pacific has functioned as an uncontested global common patrolled by overwhelming U.S. naval and air power projected from a series of peripheral and over the horizon bases. The dramatic rise of China alters this situation and has transformed the South China Sea into a frontier of control as China seeks to morph this maritime theater into a landward extension of the Chinese coast where it can deploy land-based tactics into an arena previously dominated by maritime power and tactics to secure the South China Sea as a de facto territorial water that serves multiple Chinese strategic interests. Hence, the attempt by a land-based Eurasian power (China) to carve a permanent bridgehead into Spykman’s Eurasian maritime periphery. Against, this trend the United States has countered with President Obama’s Asian Pivot. However, the implementation of the Asian Pivot is limited by several post Cold War developments and certain constraints inherent in the geographic setting of the South China Sea. Beyond the South China Sea, the geographic setting favors the U.S. and its allies. Consequently, American options acting singly or in coalition with other nations, most notably Japan and Australia, remain more flexible and able to serve as a long term counterweight to Chinese force projection capabilities into the western Pacific proper. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1916-9779
  • ISSN(Online): 1916-9787
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: semiannual

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