China’s Strategy And Potential US Options – Analysis – Eurasia Review
By Kapil Bhatia*
Chinas graduated use of coercive instruments of national power in the South China Sea (SCS) constitutes an informed strategy.1 Such coercive gradualism is supported by gray zone tactics, which are measures that are aggressive yet designed to remain below the threshold of conventional military conflict.2 This combined approach minimizes international involvement, localizes issues, and ensures contentious outcomes in Chinas favor. For smaller players in the region, this implies significant security, sovereignty, and economic challenges, especially due to their limited capacity to counter the sophisticated and integrated Chinese approach.
At the same time, the U.S. approach of avoiding a stake in regional issues has resulted in partner/ally nations questioning American commitment. Absence of a comprehensive U.S. response also allows China to alter the regional geostrategic landscape immutably. Potential changes in SCS dynamics also have wider implications for U.S. and global security interests with implications for international sovereignty, jurisdictional frameworks, and global commerce. There is a need for broader recalibration of the American approach to comprehensively address coercive gray zone challenges posed by China in the SCS through articulation of a coherent strategy and orchestrated employment of all diplomatic, informational, military, and economic options.
Chinese Strategy in the SCS
Gradualism can be defined as principles or policies for achieving a ....