March 30, 2016
The South China Sea Long Game

by Andrew F. Krepinevich

The great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, counseled, "Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." At its core, this means placing your enemy in such a disadvantageous position that he comes to believe it is useless to resist. In modern military parlance this is known as achieving decisive "positional advantage."

In the spirit of Sun Tzu, China continues militarizing islands, some artificially created, in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where the People's Liberation Army has deployed advanced fighter jets, radars and missiles. China's near-term goal is to establish positional advantage over Southeast Asian nations. This is an important step in its long-term objective of shifting the military balance so decisively against them that they lose faith in their American partner and accommodate themselves to a new regional order dictated from Beijing.

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