The United States should respond to China’s East Asian naval challenge with a strategy that combines technological transformation with maritime-security cooperation.
American power in the Western Pacific has been and remains largely defined by sea power. Yet China views nearby American sea power as a menacing presence, a counterweight to its regional interests, and a potential barrier to its access to the world’s oceans, resources, and markets. It is therefore deploying advanced antiship missiles, submarines, space-based sensors, and other capabilities that could threaten the U.S. surface fleet. China is also expanding its own naval forces in East Asian waters to back its territorial claims, secure its trade approaches, and extend its influence. Because this vital region could become unstable or fall under China’s sway if U.S. sea power recedes or becomes vulnerable, the United States can be expected to react to this challenge. A classic case of a rising sea power challenging an established one is shaping up in the Western Pacific.