Beijing has a wide range of options to respond to America’s challenge. It could buzz American vessels with jet fighters, or deploy an armada of paramilitary forces backed up by conventional naval forces. The two powers have a wide range of sticks to stare down each other without triggering all-out conflict. Historically, the USN conducts freedom of navigation operations away from the limelight. But this time is different, especially with the world carefully watching America’s next action. This also means that China’s leadership is bound to come under tremendous pressure to respond accordingly. The stage is set for potential confrontation, and the future of Asian order hangs in the balance.
Richard Javad Heydarian is an Assistant Professor in international affairs and political science at De La Salle University, and previously served as a policy advisor at the Philippine House of Representatives. As a specialist on Asian geopolitics and economic affairs, he has written for or interviewedbyAl Jazeera, Asia Times, BBC, Bloomberg, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times,Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Diplomat, The Financial Times, 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 Asia’s New Battlefield: US, China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific (Zed, 2015). You can follow him on Twitter: @Richeydarian.
Image: Flickr/U.S. Pacific Command