> 6, 2013 > Conclusion A Hypothetical South China Sea Signaling Scenario

Conclusion A Hypothetical South China Sea Signaling Scenario


25 2013

Nothing would be more destructive of Sino-American relations and Asia’s security dynamics than a decision by China to threaten a military confrontation in order to change a U.S. course of action Beijing perceived as threatening its interests in the South China Sea. It would create a political-military crisis far exceeding those that erupted from the accidental 1999 bombing of China’s Belgrade embassy or the 2001 collision between two U.S. and Chinese military aircraft. Such a crisis would stem from two conditions. The United States would view such a threat as the first Chinese effort to challenge American military supremacy in Asia’s maritime periphery. Second, all of Asia would perceive the potential military confrontation as possibly determining the future security dynamics of the region. Beijing’s decisionmakers would recognize the probable strategic implications of such a decision. Conceiving of events that could lead to such a perilous decision is in itself confounding. Consequently, the suggested scenario will focus on a low level of coercive diplomacy that goes beyond the harassment which U.S. intelligencecollection missions have faced over the past decade, but which is far less threatening than an outright military confrontation