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China-US maritime conflict would do global damage

Monday, May 24, 2021

Significance

This is misleading. The real danger arises from China’s intent to supplant the US Navy’s regional dominance and to saturate the region with a Chinese presence in support of Beijing’s territorial claims, and Washington’s resistance to this. Peaceful transit of seaborne trade depends on strategic restraint by both sides and the avoidance of unmanaged escalation.

Impacts

  • US freedom of navigation operations are the most likely flashpoint.
  • The United States would probably not need to block the Strait of Malacca; it has more effective ways to blockade Chinese shipping.
  • A conflict resulting in US victory would probably require a permanently elevated US naval presence in the region.

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