Can China Escape the Malacca Dilemma?

May 30, 2023 Topic: China Region: Asia Tags: ChinaMalacca StraitsTradeChokepointBlockade

Can China Escape the Malacca Dilemma?

Beijing is quite conscious that the Strait of Malacca can act as an effective chokepoint in China’s economic network, and is trying to find a solution to this thorny geopolitical problem.


This, however, allows China to emerge as an alternative. The GSI suggests that China could offer security assistance to help maintain the stability and security of other states or regions. Meanwhile, the GSI has reiterated some universal principles to which Indo-Pacific countries often subscribe, such as respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, adherence to UN principles, and the emphasis on dialogue. It also criticized the use of sanctions which the Western countries heavily rely on, so China is vocally criticizing the U.S.-led international security order. This could all raise the incentive of countries with relatively weaker ties with Washington to join the GSI. Accordingly, China would have a higher chance of securing more solid support during a naval blockade.

A Quest for a Greater Influence and Stability


Ultimately, the question of a naval blockade is a hypothetical future issue, but it is not entirely impossible. Beijing has been thirsty for greater power on the international stage. However, its pursuit of higher status has led to growing tensions with other states, especially the United States. Given this, China’s dependence on the Malacca Strait for energy transportation and trade could give rise to its concerns about the threats of blockade led by the United States or other countries in the region. Its lack of reliable support from partners could increase its vulnerability to serious economic and strategic repercussions arising from the Malacca Dilemma.

Nonetheless, the United States no longer has the hegemony it had during the Cold War. It relies on its regional partners to maintain effective regional security. If China is able to promote engagement with Indo-Pacific countries through the Global Security Initiative, it might be able to build closer cooperative ties with other states to weaken the influence of the United States’ coalition and prevent the Malacca Dilemma. This would embolden China’s ambition of expansion in the Indo-Pacific area and enhance its national security.

Ho Ting (Bosco) Hung is a geopolitical analyst at the Nicholas Spykman International Center for Geopolitical Analysis and a member of the International Team for the Study of Security Verona. Recently, he presented at the Oxford Hong Kong Forum 2022 and was interviewed by France 24, Al Jazeera, and Asharq News to provide geopolitical analyses of China’s political economy and global politics. He has written for Initium Media, UDN, The Journal of Conflict, Intelligence, and Warfare, The Webster Review of International History, Oxford Political Review, and other newspapers, peer-reviewed publications, and magazines.

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