Not surprisingly, there has been little appetite on the campaign trail to talk sensibly about the South China Sea or U.S.-China relations. Don’t expect much from Hillary Clinton in the way of presenting creative diplomatic solutions to the Gordian Knot of the South China Sea, since one of her main legacies as Secretary of State seems to have been a dramatic increase in tensions in the South China Sea and elsewhere along China’s periphery after she focused on the issue in mid-2010. Interestingly, Donald Trump seems to have offered one of the most sensible comments on the issue recently, as summarized in the Economist:
Shooting wars appeal less. Asked about China building runways on reclaimed land in the South China Sea, he calls it a hostile move. “However, it is very far away, and we have a lot of problems, OK? And they are already built.”
In other words, he seemed to be saying that these moves are objectionable, but hardly a ‘big deal’ given other pressing issues. Maybe part of Trump’s appeal is his pragmatism and refusal to buy into neo-conservative and neo-liberal orthodoxies.
Lyle J. Goldstein is Associate Professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI. The opinions expressed in this analysis are his own and do not represent the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. Government.
Image: Flickr/Official U.S. Navy