by John Lee, Charles Horner
May 06, 2014
U.S. administrations and officials are consistently caught flat-footed by the increasing assertiveness of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over disputed territories in the East China and South China Seas. This assertiveness is strident, yet controlled. While the United States is well aware of the PRC’s “talk and take” approach, U.S. policy has been tactical and responsive rather than strategic and preemptive, thus allowing China to control the pace and nature of escalation in executing talk and take. This paper points out that the PRC’s increasing assertiveness in Asia’s maritime domains is not simply a “structural” inevitability.” Washington can do little to shape the PRC’s preferred end game, but it still has good options to shape China’s behavior in the region. The basic goal of the PRC is to simplify the region in strategic terms. Any American response should be designed to complicate the region for the PRC.