U.S. must emphasize rule of law to counter China's aggressive maritime strategy
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China pursues its security through interior strategies that involve the development of rings of security around central areas of national interest. The Chinese have long felt vulnerable from the sea, and their current maritime strategy seeks to reduce that vulnerability by extending a ring of maritime control around China’s periphery. China pursues this control through a combination of force-structure development and legal assertions. Tensions arise because China’s strategy conflicts with the territorial claims, resource interests, and security concerns of other states in East Asia. China’s strategy also causes friction with the United states, which relies on freedom of navigation in maritime East Asia for American security interests and which must reassure regional allies and partners that american security guarantees are meaningful. In order to ensure the position of the United States in East Asia, american policies must focus on maintaining the region as an open, maritime system. This requires continuous development of technological advantages to ensure that the center of power in Asia does not migrate from the maritime domain to the continent. It also requires the United states to support the ability of allies, friends, and partners to resist China’s non-militarized coercion, as well as to reinforce the normative structure that supports the efficacy of maritime power in the region and around the globe.
U.S. capability to influence China would be strengthened by a reassertion of the American leadership role over the development of international law of the sea. Since UNCLOS is the basis of modern international law of the sea, the U.S. should ratify the Convention in order to more effectively exercise this leadership from within the ranks, not just from outside them.