Tensions between the United States and China regarding the South China Sea are rising along with the recent broader breakdown of bilateral relations. The legitimacy of historical rights claims, entitlements and rights of other claimant states such as the Philippines and Vietnam, and the boundaries of freedom of navigation operations are among the central issues. Despite their differences, both the United States and China wish to avoid conflict and uphold professionalism at sea.
Is there any significant space for cooperation in South China Sea interactions beyond military engagement, including biodiversity protection and Coast Guard activities? What role do maritime and international law play in the rapidly evolving bilateral relationship? How is China likely to respond to the upcoming U.S. election in its maneuvers in the South China Sea?
On October 20, 2020, the National Committee hosted a virtual program featuring Peter Dutton, M. Taylor Fravel, Tabitha Mallory, Wu Shicun, and Zhu Feng. The five experts discussed the challenging bilateral issues, and provided their assessments of South China Sea development including maritime engagement of China and other claimants and its impact on South China Sea development, mechanisms for U.S.-China maritime military conflict management, and the role of the United States and China in rulemaking and building security protocols.