Villain Wave – Opinion –


The US ‘integrated deterrence strategy’ in the South China Sea makes the situation more turbulent, crisis-prone and militarized

As the United States increasingly views China as a strategic competitor, the Joe Biden administration has sought to maintain US competitive advantage by formulating an effective deterrence strategy.

To this end, the Biden administration has formally introduced the concept of “integrated deterrence” at the government level and given it concrete meaning through policy practice, based on the Donald Trump administration’s comprehensive and comprehensive concept of deterrence.

The essence of the strategy is to integrate forces and resources across all domains to build a highly coordinated and networked deterrent system to meet the demands of the times and a future war environment.

For the US, the South China Sea is one of the priority areas to engage in geopolitical competition with China, maintain its strategic dominance in the western Pacific and contain Chinese development.

For China, the South China Sea concerns not only its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, but also its national security and vital interests.

Under the strategy of “integrated deterrence”, the US South China Sea policy has changed significantly, making greater use of a variety of military and non-military measures to achieve the goal of deterring China.

In addition to ‘freedom of navigation operations’, proximity reconnaissance and multilateral joint military exercises, the Biden administration has placed greater importance on persuading its allies and partners to jointly pressure China, increasing the presence of forward military bases and scaling up military bases. political, economic, legal, diplomatic and paramilitary input. All these measures are aimed at making the costs of Chinese operations in the South China Sea unbearably high.

The Biden administration’s integrated deterrence strategy, which involves blanket pressure and engagement, has seriously endangered peace and stability in the South China Sea.

For one thing, it has intensified the interference of outside forces.

Under the guidance of this strategy, the US has made every effort to engage its allies and other external forces to participate in the geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific region. The country has continuously sowed discord between China and other countries around the South China Sea and carried out provocative joint military actions in the South China Sea against China, which has exacerbated regional tensions and instability in the South China Sea increases.

Currently, US-led external interference is the biggest contributing factor to the deteriorating situation in the South China Sea and the biggest destroyer of maritime rules in the region.

Second, it has provoked unilateral actions by claimant states on the South China Sea issue.

On the South China Sea issue, some claimant countries have promoted the “expansion” and “internationalization” of the disputes as their main strategy, hoping that US-led external interference can serve as a counterbalance to China in the region . In doing so, they aim to consolidate and expand vested interests through unilateral actions to support their claims to the South China Sea.

In addition to deep adjustments to the US South China Sea policy under the ‘integrated deterrence’ strategy, the Biden administration has increased security assistance and diplomatic support to claimant countries opposing China on the issue of the South China Sea. This has made some claimant countries, such as the Philippines, more willing to step up unilateral intrusions and provocations in the South China Sea.

Third, the country has intervened in establishing regional rules and order in the South China Sea.

The Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea represents the joint efforts of China and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to establish a security order and rules in the South China Sea. However, the COC negotiations are facing growing resistance due to interference by the US and other outside forces.

Today, under the Biden administration’s “integrated deterrence strategy,” the US South China Sea policy has become increasingly militarized. It has increased diplomatic pressure, economic enticement and security assistance to ASEAN members, especially by using Vietnam and the Philippines to influence the COC negotiation process. This has complicated and complicated the negotiation process and made it even more difficult for China and ASEAN countries to manage the South China Sea disputes by establishing rules.

Fourth, it has affected the overall picture of China-US relations and increased the risk of conflict between the two countries.

Deterrence is a political form of communication with great risks: there is a great risk of miscalculations as a result of incidents and accidents. If deterrence fails, it will be a costly and difficult affair for both sides.

In recent years, the South China Sea issue has continued to flare up and escalate, gradually becoming a focal point of the geopolitical rivalry between the US and China.

As the US South China Sea policy becomes increasingly aggressive and adventurous under the strategy of ‘integrated deterrence’ – such as the unprecedented strategic adjustments in the South China Sea, as well as closer ties between US engagement in the South China Sea and strategic engagement near the Taiwan Strait – the likelihood of close contact and friction between China and the US has been continuously increasing, which could easily lead to misjudgments and actions that lead to misunderstandings.

With the increasingly fierce strategic competition between China and the US and the increasing structural contradictions between the two countries, a series of US military operations in the South China Sea, including the deployment of forward bases, frequent proximity reconnaissance and joint military exercises , have become the biggest factors behind the deteriorating security situation in the South China Sea.

It is foreseeable that under the guidance of the “integrated deterrence” strategy, US deterrence-oriented military operations and political, economic and diplomatic measures in the South China Sea against China will become even more diversified. High-pressure deterrence will become the norm. The future situation in the South China Sea will be more turbulent, crisis-prone, internationalized and militarized.

China should prepare to respond to the deteriorating situation by increasing its national strength, integrating maritime forces, implementing neighborhood diplomacy, promoting regional cooperation and establishing rules. It should also optimize inter-agency coordination and decision-making processes and promote information sharing to prevent the situation in the South China Sea from further deteriorating.

Moreover, any form of mandatory intervention by external forces, including the US, will not be good for maritime cooperation and the resolution of the South China Sea issue. On the contrary, it will only undermine the building of mutual trust among the littoral states of the South China Sea, jeopardize existing cooperation in the region, and aggravate the already complicated situation in the South China Sea.

Regional countries must remain very vigilant against US-led external interference. In the meantime, they must decide to abandon the mentality of taking advantage of the so-called ‘window period’ to carry out unilateral infringement actions.

They should, on the basis of the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea, seize the opportunity of the COC negotiations, strive to make substantial progress in cooperation among the coastal states of the South China Sea Sea, and a regional maritime cooperation mechanism, so as to take the initiative in the security of the South China Sea. They must join forces to truly develop the South China Sea into a sea of ​​peace, friendship and cooperation.

Zheng Xianwu is a professor and associate professor of the Institute of International Relations, Nanjing University. Wang Tengfei is an assistant researcher at the Research Center for Oceans Law and Policy, National Institute for South China Sea Studies. The authors contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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