By: Travis Andreu
American diplomacy has been a force for change, stabilization and regulation outside of its territorial waters since the assumption of the Monroe Doctrine some two centuries ago. Since the doctrine’s implementation, American oversight has grown tremendously; from dominion over the western hemisphere to multi-categorical dominance the world over, American influence has worked its way into billions of non-American lives. As we reach the end of the first half of this decade, challenges to American diplomatic power threaten to shift international dominance from American hands, with the most prominent threat in the Eastern Hemisphere being China.
By asserting Chinese dominance in the South China Sea, President Xi attempts to fulfill the “Chinese Dream.” Drafting a broad set of goals for the Chinese people—the most worrying includes plans for a significantly strengthened Navy—it appears that Xi is looking to overturn American Naval dominance in the South China Sea. China has been looking to push the American Navy out of these waters to enable the Chinese Navy to sail with impunity in their oceanic neighborhood. Hypothetically, this would give China the ability to pressure Taiwan and Japan to capitulate to Chinese demands if they want to use particular sea-lanes (South China Sea) and economic trade routes (Silk Route). China has attempted to assert its power over the region for decades, only to run into the omnipresent shadow of America’s Military.
As tensions rise in the South China Sea, we will see a resurgence of an American naval presence, possibly on par with the Chinese naval incursions of Taiwanese waters in 1996. Nations in the region are looking to renew decrepit or expired naval alliances with the U.S. and create a buffer zone between them and the Chinese Navy. It now stands that China is on track to have a competitive naval force which could challenge American interests and assert a new age of Chinese hegemony in the region by 2020.
Combined China-Russia efforts could now rebuff American dominance in the Asia region. As of October, China and Russia have made a pact to undercut U.S. currency and are instituting economic policies that will allow the two superpowers to trade directly in their respective currencies, making deals backed without inclusion of the U.S. dollar. This pact has arisen amid a shift of Russo-Sino relations, with both countries moving away from the West and signaling a possible shift into a new Eurasian epoch that is enabling a change in Asian diplomatic momentum. Couple this with increased military cooperation between China and Russia and one begins to see a new, mutually beneficial partnership forming in which China and Russia can create political power blocs outside of Western influence and independent of U.S./European sanctioning bodies. With a combined front of Chinese land grabs in the South China Sea and Russian territorial pushes west into the former Eastern bloc, a new alliance of political power is born, one which will continue to push economic and political influence upon weaker neighbors if left unchecked by Western intervention.
The U.S. response to these diplomatic scenarios should be strong, and must be levied within the decade. With rising tensions in the South China Seas requiring a large American Naval response, coupled with rising Russian imperialism in the east, U.S. Diplomatic efforts will take a very different turn in the latter half of the 2010s. U.S. policy must slow Chinese expansion into the South China Sea while keeping international shipping lanes open for business and unmolested by Chinese Naval battle groups. Policy makers need to address the growing threat of Russian movement into the Middle East and Eastern Europe, minimizing Russian involvement in Ukraine and other conflicts that involve the U.S. and allied security interests.
Overall, the United States must take a more aggressive approach in international policy and conflict prevention/intervention if it aims to keep its dominance on the world stage in the latter half of this decade.