Congressional report reveals China’s strategy to dominate East Asia

A recently updated report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) sheds new light on the extent of Sino-U.S. Competition in the East Asian region.

The 128 pages report, written by naval affairs specialist Ronald O’Rourke, opens with an overview of US interests in the South China Sea (SCS), East China Sea (ECS) and Yellow Sea. These waters, the author explains, border current and emerging American partners, including Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The paper presents a set of fundamental US policy goals guiding US-China competition in the SCS and ECS. These include, but are not limited to

… Fulfill US security commitments in the Western Pacific, including treaty commitments to Japan and the Philippines; maintaining and enhancing the US-led security architecture in the Western Pacific, including US security relationships with Treaty Allies and Partner States; maintaining a regional balance of power favorable to the United States and its allies and partners; defend the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes and resist the emergence of an alternative “can-do-good” approach in international affairs; defend the principle of the freedom of the sea, also sometimes called freedom of navigation; prevent China from becoming a regional hegemony in East Asia …

Meanwhile, China’s “apparent goals” include deterring US forces in the region, intimidating or coercing their neighbors into compliance, and gaining national support for the direction of foreign policy. of the Chinese Communist Party. The report reviews the main elements of Chinese strategic behavior – these include “salami tactics” and gray area operations aimed at exhausting neighbors over time, aggressive “island building” practices and of “base building” in the SCS; and propaganda efforts intended to portray the United States as “an alien or intruder whose actions interfere or seek to” stir up trouble “in an otherwise peaceful regional situation “. The CRS report offers a comprehensive treatment of the many maritime, territorial and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) disputes between China and its neighbors, noting that these incidents have the potential to act as a conduit for maritime incidents between the states. United and China.

The report maintains that Chinese dominance over the SCS would be a major boon to the growing umbrella of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) anti-access / area denial (A2 / AD) capabilities. Chinese ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are said to have a relatively safe space in which to operate, bolstering the comprehensive defenses of Chinese naval strongholds in the region. While Chinese bases in the SCS would be vulnerable to US strikes, they would also deflect and delay US forces present in the region. The report argues that Chinese control over these waters would 1) hamper the ability of US assets in Asia-Pacific to intervene effectively in a possible scenario of invasion of Taiwan; 2) strengthen China’s ability to “coerce, intimidate or exert political pressure” on neighboring countries; 3) give Beijing a military and political base to project its power in the Western Pacific; 4) jeopardize the long-term security positions of the Japanese, South Korean and Filipino allies in Washington; and 5) facilitate China’s rise as a “regional hegemony in its part of Eurasia”.

CRS report quotes observers who have argued that Washington’s means in the SCS-ECS region have not always been in step with its ends, especially when it comes to funding security assistance. for regional allies and partners.

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National interest.

Image: Reuters.

Amanda J. Marsh