While the Philippines is waging the snail's pace legal warfare, China is dramatically altering facts on the ground on a daily basis. By all means, the real struggle in the South China Sea is to protect your position on the ground, defending every inch of your territorial claim lest others will Darwin you out.
Goldstein performs two critical tasks in his new book, Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging U.S.-China Rivalry (Georgetown University Press). First, he acknowledges the legitimacy of the PRC's desire for a greater international role. Second, he offers a strategy of cooperation for the two nations, which includes recognizing natural but much-reviled "spheres of influence."
So much for last month's U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, which has left U.S. security analysts convinced the United States is getting nowhere with China. This was evident as President Obama expressed concern about China's increasingly troublesome cyber and maritime behavior.
OXFORD, England -- China seems to be trying to "create facts on the ground" -- what Admiral Harry Harris, the US commander in the Pacific, calls a new "great wall of sand." The U.S. response is designed to prevent China from creating a fait accompli that could close off large parts of the South China Sea. Nevertheless, the original policy of not becoming embroiled in the sovereignty dispute continues to make sense.
BEIJING -- Washington needs to state and re-state that what it is determined to defend is the global commons, not its naval supremacy in the South China Sea. The former wins high ground in the court of international opinion. The latter may generate headlines for the grandstand wanting to see U.S.-Chinese rivalry, but it will likely result in a limited alliance and set the region down a zero-sum track.