China's Plan to Obliterate American Supremacy

April 8, 2015 Topic: Security Region: Asia

China's Plan to Obliterate American Supremacy

China is chipping away at the very foundations of the decades-long U.S.-led order in Asia.

The United States has also proposed the establishment of a South China Sea International Operations Center in Jakarta, Indonesia—the ASEAN’s informal leader, which has been increasingly critical of China’s territorial posturing. Recently, Indonesian president “Jokowi” Widodo once again volunteered his country as a potential mediator in the South China Sea disputes. The International Operations Center could provide critical logistical support for joint maritime patrols by the United States and its regional allies in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The exact mandate and composition of any multilateral peacekeeping force in the South China Sea will certainly inspire a contentious debate. For sure, China will exert tremendous pressure on its regional allies, particularly Cambodia and Laos, to block any such effort. But with key ASEAN countries, such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, consistently expressing their concerns with China’s territorial assertiveness, there is enough reason to seriously consider such option. In light of the ASEAN’s inability to even negotiate a Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea, joint patrols could serve as an important mechanism to manage the ongoing disputes. America’s political and logistical support will be crucial. Any joint patrols in the South China Sea should be ostensibly led by Indigenous powers, but Washington could play a key role by leading from behind.

Overall, it is clear that China is determined to challenge American primacy in Asia. The United States can respond by leveraging its broad network of allies in the region, which mostly share Washington’s anxieties about Chinese territorial designs in the Western Pacific—and its potentially negative ramifications for freedom of navigation in and flight over international waters.

Richard Javad Heydarian is a lecturer in international affairs and political science at Ateneo De Manila University, and a policy advisor at the Philippine House of Representatives. As a specialist on Asian geopolitics and economic affairs, he has written for or interviewed by Al Jazeera, Asia Times, BBC, Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Diplomat, The National Interest, and USA TODAY, among other leading international publications. He is the author of How Capitalism Failed the Arab World: The Economic Roots and Precarious Future of the Middle East Uprisings (Zed, London), and the forthcoming book The Philippines: The US, China, and the Struggle for Asia’s Pivot State (Zed, 2015).

Image: Flickr/U.S. Pacific Fleet/CC by-nc 2.0