Executive Branch Foreign Relations & International Law

Water Wars: U.S. Unveils First Pacific Islands Partnership Strategy

Teresa Chen, Alana Nance, Han-ah Sumner
Thursday, November 3, 2022, 8:54 AM

Xi secures third presidential term following 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party; Chinese military rehearses large-scale amphibious landings and headhunts Western pilots; U.S. releases China-focused National Security Strategy and strengthens Indo-Pacific cooperation; and more.

An annual bilateral exercise involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. military. Source: U.S. Marine Corps photo.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Biden Administration Releases Long-Awaited National Security Strategy

On Oct. 12, the Biden administration announced its first National Security Strategy (NSS). The 48-page document, which was delayed last winter due to Russia’s impending invasion of Ukraine, outlines Biden’s perspective on the world’s greatest challenges and how the United States can protect its interests. The strategy defines two fundamental strategic challenges: first, the competition between major powers to shape the future of the international order, and second, transnational challenges such as “climate change, food insecurity, communicable diseases, terrorism, energy shortages, or inflation.”

 Regarding strategic competition, Biden’s strategy identifies China as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge,” and also deemphasizes Russia as a strategic threat. Declaring that the post-Cold War era is “definitively over,” the document states that China is the “only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.” Russia is not characterized as a long-term challenger but, instead, as an “immediate threat” to the international order. And on shared challenges, the Biden administration asserts that the U.S. is pursuing a dual-track approach that focuses on working with any willing country, including competitors, to solve such challenges while also deepening cooperation with democracies at the core of such coalitions.

China, however, rejected its characterization in Biden’s NSS. In a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning called the strategy a relic of “the Cold War zero-sum mentality” and asserted that “China has always been a force for world peace, a contributor to global development, a defender of the international order, a provider of public goods and part of the mediation efforts on hotspot issues.” The spokesperson also urged the Biden administration to “work with China to bring China-U.S. relations back onto the track of sound and steady development.”

Most notably, the NSS goes beyond international relations and introduces domestic policy as a priority to American interests. As National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan stated in an on-the-record press call, the strategy breaks down the “dividing line between foreign policy and domestic policy” by emphasizing that investments at home and in domestic industries will increase American competitiveness and resilience. The document’s beginning sections focus on the development of critical infrastructure; the securing of supply chains, particularly in semiconductors; and the investment in technology as a means to maintain competitiveness as a global economy. The NSS also asserts that the future of America’s success will be “the strength of our middle class,” which it views as an engine of economic growth and a critical national security priority. Lastly, the strategy expounds on the core of American democracy—an idea that has not been mentioned in previous strategies—by emphasizing that elections “must be respected and protected,” and by implementing strategies to counter domestic terrorism.

U.S. Continues to Strengthen Indo-Pacific Cooperation

Biden Unveils First-Ever Pacific Partnership Strategy

On Sept. 29, the Biden administration unveiled the Pacific Partnership Strategy, the first-ever national strategy from the U.S. government dedicated to the Pacific Islands. The 16-page document, which outlines the government’s strategy for deeper engagement with Pacific Island nations, was announced during the first ever U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit. The initiative builds on earlier efforts in the Biden administration to strengthen cooperation among like-minded nations in the Indo-Pacific region, such as through the Quad and AUKUS, which previous Water Wars columns have reported on. Though not mentioned at all in the strategy, the initiative also reflects the administration’s recent recognition of the geopolitical challenges and risks that arise when China steps in to fill a strategic void in a region that the U.S. has neglected.

The Pacific Partnership Strategy pursues four objectives, which focus on strengthening diplomatic relations between the Pacific Island and the U.S., and with other like-minded countries in the region and beyond, and building resilience to region-specific challenges such as climate change and the need for security and sovereignty in the maritime domain. Specifically, the objectives are (a) building a strong U.S.-Pacific Islands partnership, (b) bolstering diplomatic relationships between the Pacific Islands and the world, (c) developing resilience in the region to combat the climate crisis and other 21st century challenges, and (d) empowering the region with increased economic and educational opportunities.

In support of the strategy initiative, the Biden administration has committed $810 million to the Indo-Pacific region, which includes a 10-year $600 million economic assistance request to Congress, and more than $130 million in new investments to support climate resilience and to strengthen Pacific Islands economics. Other commitments include the expansion of U.S. diplomatic missions from six to nine across the Pacific region, the reestablishment of a USAID mission in Fiji, and an expanded Peace Corps presence.

The strategy announcement and the summit were met with initial complications, as the Solomon Islands, which signed a controversial security pact with China in May, hesitated to sign the U.S.-Pacific Partnership Declaration due to indirect references to China. Jeremiah Manele, foreign minister of the Solomon Islands, told reporters in Washington: “There were some references that put us in a position where we’ll have to choose sides, and we did not want to be placed in a position where we have to choose sides.” After discussions and negotiations, however, Manele declared that the two nations were “able to find common ground,” and the Solomon Islands signed the agreement.

In response to both the strategy and the summit, China emphasized its “openness to the increase of normal exchange and cooperation between Pacific Island countries” and countries interested in enhancing their presence in the region. During a regular press conference, however, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning also said that the Pacific Island countries “must not be viewed as chess pieces in any contest between major powers,” and that China hopes the U.S.“will genuinely support [Pacific Island countries] in responding to climate change and realizing development and revitalization.”

China’s own regional security cooperation agreement—the China-Pacific Islands Countries Common Development Vision—has failed to materialize.

U.S. Military Developments in the Indo-Pacific Region

On Oct. 1, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada met in Hawaii and agreed to strengthen the countries’ defense cooperation in light of China’s increased activities in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. Specifically, the three defense leaders affirmed their commitments to promote joint exercises, defense equipment, and technology cooperation. 

The U.S. also held individual meetings with Australia and the Philippines to strengthen alliances. Regarding Australia, Austin and Marles reported having a productive conversation, focused on “enhancing [U.S.-Australia] interoperability and expanding our operations and advancing our on-going posture.” The two leaders also discussed ways to deepen defense industrial base cooperation and the Australia-U.K.-U.S.trilateral security pact aimed at helping Australia acquire nuclear submarine technology and enhancing cooperation on other advanced technologies. 

Regarding the Philippines, Secretary Austin and Jose C. Faustino Jr., officer-in-charge of the Philippine Department of National Defense, met at Camp Smith, Hawaii, to discuss their shared vision of “an open[,] secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific, free from coercion or bullying.” During remarks made after the meeting, the two leaders stated that the priorities for the U.S.-Philippines alliance included strengthening mutual defense treaty commitments, enhancing maritime cooperation and building on the mutual defense posture, and improving interoperability and information sharing.

Following these meetings, the U.S., the Philippines, and Australia conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea called Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama Lumbas, with the at-sea phase held from Oct. 11 to Oct. 18. In the past, the exercise was split into two separate bilateral exercises—exercise Sama Sama between the Philippine Navy and the U.S Navy and exercise Lumbas between the Philippine Navy and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). This was the first time the two exercises were held together.

The sea phase included two interoperability iterations, with the first phase focused on search and rescue and humanitarian and disaster relief operations. Ships involved included the Philippine Navy frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF150), JMSDF destroyer JS Kirisame (DS-104), RN OPV HMS Spey (P234), RAN destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG39), and replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart (A304); aircraft involved included the Philippine Navy C-90 and JMSDF US-2. The second phase focused on warfighting interoperability exercises, and involved the Philippine Navy, RAN, and the U.S. Navy. According to a news release from the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet, the exercise was “designed to promote regional security, cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability.”

The U.S. and Japan are also preparing for a joint exercise in Japan next month; Exercise Keen Sword will be conducted from Nov. 10 to Nov. 19.

Xi Jinping Decisively Consolidates Power, Elevates Loyal Allies at 20th National Congress

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party took place from Oct. 16 to Oct. 20 and culminated in a norm-defying consolidation of power, with Xi Jinping securing a third consecutive five-year term as president of the People’s Republic of China and stacking the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the highest seat of leadership within the Chinese Communist Party, with loyal allies dedicated to his regime, effectively eliminating checks on his ability to exert control over the direction of his government. Xi’s ascension to a third term brushed aside decades of convention limiting leaders to two five-year terms. According to Yang Zhang, a sociologist at American University’s School of International Service, following the 20th National Congress, norms governing duration of service on the 25-member Politburo may no longer hold up either. “It’s not about age anymore,” he says. “It’s about whether you are on Xi’s side.”

Xi will enter his third term at a time particularly fraught with significant policy and security concerns including the economic downturn resulting from China’s “zero-Covid” policies, unrest in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and percolating tension between China, Taiwan, and the U.S. Some analysts predict that, following consolidation of power, Xi plans to “ramp up, not tamp down” his policy objectives; the more pressing issues he faces, the more compelling the justification appears for awarding him such broad decision-making authority. 

During the National Congress, Xi framed China as a “new choice” for humanity, in place of Western democracy, as a path toward modernization and cautioned his party that they will need to navigate “abrupt changes” and “weather ‘high winds and dangerous storms’” in pursuit of military, economic, and cultural dominance. He urged the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to “move quicker” toward modernization and troop training. “The use of military power needs to be normalized and used in diverse ways,” Xi said. “We need to be able to stage military operations readily, create a secure environment, deter and control risks and conflicts, and win regional wars.” Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe also addressed the National Congress, delivering a warning of upcoming “severe and grave national security conditions” and cautioning the military to remain vigilant and to continue strengthening and preparing for war. 

Commenting on the outcome of the 20th National Congress, Richard C. Bush, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies, noted that under Xi’s highly concentrated power structure, “the flow of information to the top is tightly constricted” and it will be risky to challenge Xi’s view of reality. As a consequence, he concluded, Xi and his allies will be “even more prone to ‘group think’ than they already are” and will therefore be vulnerable to miscalculations. Patricia M. Kim, the David M. Rubenstein fellow at the Center for East Asia Policy Studies, noted the “aggressive posture” of Xi’s rule and predicted that China will “double down” on this course of action, making any drastic near-term policy changes “highly unlikely.” 

Chinese Military Strengthening Capabilities at Sea and in the Air

PLA Navy, Marines Rehearsing Large-Scale Amphibious Assaults

Chinese state-run news outlet the Global Times reported in October that the PLA Navy conducted an amphibious assault exercise at an undisclosed location, in which Marines carried out ship-to-shore movement utilizing a combination of Z-8C transport helicopters, Type 726 air-cushioned landing craft, and Type 05 amphibious armored vehicles. The exercise was notable in that it involved two PLA Navy Type 075 amphibious assault ships (similar in capability to the U.S. Navy’s Wasp-class amphibious assault ship) from two different theater commands working together in order to increase the size of the available landing force. China currently has three Type 075 amphibious assault ships and reportedly plans to develop a more advanced Type 076 class ship in the future. 

In late September, the U.S. Naval Institute reported that the PLA Navy had conducted another major amphibious exercise, but on that occasion it used several civilian car ferries as launching points for amphibious landing craft. The exercise took place on and around a Chinese beach near the Taiwan Strait. According to defense analyst Tom Shugart, the exercise demonstrated how the civilian ferries, which have greater capacity to transport large landing forces for a “quick trip” across the Taiwan Strait than amphibious warships (which must dedicate cubic feet to sustainability for long periods at sea), could contribute to a large-scale amphibious invasion of Taiwan. Shugart described this civilian sealift capacity as “essential” augmentation of any invasion of Taiwan. 

The PLA Marine Corps also appears to have “adopted some of the approach of its American counterpart” and reportedly has ramped up training in a range of harsh environments, including severe desert heat and the extreme Himalayan winter, in order to ensure it is able to maneuver and fight in all conditions. 

PLA Aviation Manpower Struggles to Keep Pace With Growing Fleet; China Headhunting Western Pilots

Aviation appears to be gaining ground among China’s favored methods of asserting its dominance and territorial claims in the Indo-Pacific region. Recently, the Japanese Ministry of Defense reported that Japanese fighter jets were scrambled 340 times to respond to threatening aircraft belonging to the air wing embarked on the PLA Navy aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning (16) between April and September. That number represents 76 percent of all Japanese fighters scrambled during that period. Previous Lawfare articles have detailed unsafe maneuvers by PLA fighter jets against foreign aircraft operating lawfully in the region, a chaffing incident involving an Australian aircraft in international airspace, and breaches of the median line between Taiwan and mainland China. The Global Times reports that the “mass production and wide deployment” of Chinese fighter jets to police the East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and drive away provocative foreign aircraft will “better safeguard China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests.” As we have written about previously, China has been working rapidly to expand and modernize its fleet of aircraft carriers. In June, China launched its third conventional aircraft carrier—its first featuring an electromagnetic catapult aircraft launching system. China reportedly plans to develop six carrier strike groups by 2035. In recent years, the PLA Air Force also has evolved its aviation platforms through the production and deployment of its 20-series aircraft, including the Y-20 heavy-lifter (2016), J-20 stealth fighter (2017), and Z-20 helicopter (2019). An H-20 strategic bomber is forthcoming, and China has begun researching the incorporation of advanced military drones as “loyal wingmen” for the J-20 stealth fighter. The PLA Navy also has begun elevating jet pilots into higher echelons of the command structure aboard aircraft carriers; in 2020, a J-15 pilot was appointed as the executive officer of the carrier CNS Shandong (17).

With this significant and rapid investment in aircraft carriers and aviation platforms, China will likely struggle to meet its demand for qualified pilots. Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie assessed that China would need 200 carrier-qualified pilots to operate 130 ship-borne aircraft. Moreover, the electromagnetic catapult aircraft launching system employed by the PLA Navy’s newest carrier is different from the ski-jump designs employed on the first two carriers, and will require mastery of a new aircraft launching and recovery system. As Li acknowledged, pilot training technology that would facilitate achievement of this mastery more rapidly is “among the world’s most difficult and complicated core technologies” and is unlikely to be shared.

 Underscoring Li’s point, the U.K. issued a warning to its former military personnel last month cautioning them not to be lured by lucrative contracts in exchange for training the Chinese military. On Oct. 18, the BBC reported that up to 30 former U.K. military pilots may have gone to train members of the PLA following China’s efforts to “headhunt” those with specialized aviation knowledge. As a result, the U.K. is considering changing its laws to criminalize former military personnel entering into contracts to train certain foreign militaries, citing national security concerns. Following the BBC’s report, Australia’s defense minister announced that its military was also launching an investigation into reports that its former pilots had been recruited and accepted training roles in China. Similar reports have since surfaced regarding former French and Canadian pilots. When asked about the reports at a news briefing in October, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin denied awareness of any such recruitment efforts. 

Cross-Strait Relations Continue to Simmer After Taiwan’s Double Tenth Day, China’s 20th National Congress 

On Oct. 10, the 111th anniversary of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called on Beijing to work with Taipei to find a “mutually agreeable arrangement” for cross-strait peace and stability, and also pledged to bolster the island’s military and defense power. The speech comes at a time when cross-strait tensions have risen dramatically.

 Beijing responded quickly, criticizing Tsai’s speech. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning stated that “[t]he cause of the current tensions in the Taiwan Strait lies in the Democratic Progressive Party authorities’ stubborn insistence on Taiwan independence and secession.” China’s mainland Taiwan Affairs Office also commented, saying that Tsai’s speech “distorts the substance of cross-strait relations, exaggerates the threats from the mainland, sabotages cross-strait ties and endangers peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

 Furthermore, on Oct. 11, in a report to parliament seeking budget approval for a new class of frigate, Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, stated that the number of PLA ships regularly deployed in waters close to Taiwan had doubled since August to between four and six a day. Additionally, the PLA has been sending multiple daily warplane sorties to the island’s ADIZ or across the median line in the Taiwan Strait, actions that Chiu called actions of provocation from China. It was the first time the island’s military has revealed these statistics. The Taiwan defense ministry said that this increase in Chinese military presence has placed a “heavy burden” on Taiwan’s frigate fleet, which is “struggling to maintain proper equipment and perform various combat readiness tasks.”

 Less than a week later, at the opening session of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that “resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese.” Xi also stated that while peaceful reunification was the goal, China will “never promise to renounce the use of force, and [reserves] the option of taking all measures necessary.”

 In response, Taiwan’s Presidential Office asserted that Taiwan was a sovereign and independent nation and that “Taiwan’s position is firm: no backing down on national sovereignty, no compromise on democracy and freedom, and meeting on the battlefield is absolutely not an option for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

 The U.S. also expressed concern about the fact that China seems to be speeding up its timeline for taking control of Taiwan. U.S. Navy officials have pointed to 2027 as the year that China hopes to have the military capacity to take control of the island, with Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) emphasizing that the Pentagon must modernize faster to prepare for conflict with China. Furthermore, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday has stated that Beijing may initiate an attack on Taiwan as soon as next year, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken further suggested at a recent event at Stanford University that China’s plans to annex the island are moving on a “much faster timeline” than previously expected.

 Some Taiwan experts, however, suggest that such statements from China should be taken with a “grain of salt” and can be viewed as a form of psychological warfare aimed to intimidate Taiwan.

 Tensions between Taiwan and China have risen significantly since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in August. Regardless of opinion, the international community remains vigilant regarding the situation unfolding in the Taiwan Strait.

North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile Over Japan and Test Fires Long-Range Strategic Cruise Missiles

North Korea has increased provocations in response to U.S.-South Korea joint exercises involving the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), which it views as “an invasion rehearsal.” North Korea’s nuclear weapons policy adopted in September may also have increased the country’s arbitrary deployment of nuclear weapons. 


On Sept. 29, hours after Vice President Kamala Harris wrapped up her trip to South Korea, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) off its east coast. On Oct. 1, just days after the U.S., Japan, and South Korea conducted a joint anti-submarine naval exercise, North Korea launched two more SRBMs off its east coast. On Oct. 4, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years, leading residents in the Hokkaido and Aomori prefectures to take shelter. This intermediate-range ballistic missile flew 2,800 miles, the longest distance ever traveled by a North Korean missile. It may have been the Hwasong-12, with a reach including Japan and Guam. After North Korea’s missile tests on Oct. 4, the USS Ronald Reagan “engaged in a joint trilateral exercise with South Korean and Japanese navy destroyers, which tested their combined ability to detect, track and shoot down North Korean ballistic missiles.” Two days later, North Korea launched two more SRBMs that landed outside Japan’s economic exclusion zone.  

The list goes on. On Oct. 10, North Korea launched two SRBMs. On Oct. 12, a state-controlled media outlet in North Korea reported that the country had test-fired two long-range strategic cruise missiles, which hit a target 2,000 kilometers away. On Oct. 13, North Korea launched one SRBM and 560 artillery shots inside a maritime “buffer zone” near the South Korean border. Overnight on Oct. 14, North Korea fired one SRBM toward the East Sea and about 170 artillery shells into maritime buffer zones. North Korea may be developing ways to fire missiles undetectably, including by flying them in irregular trajectories. On Oct. 19, North Korea fired about 100 artillery shells into the maritime buffer zone, just 14 hours after firing 250 artillery shells.  

On Oct. 24, North and South Korea exchanged warning shots along their western sea boundary, which “raises worry of possible clashes after North Korea’s recent barrage of weapons tests.” The western sea boundary is a source of animosity between the countries, with Pyongyang insisting on a boundary that includes waters controlled by South Korea. According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs, the artillery firings “breached a 2018 inter-Korean accord on reducing military animosities.” 

In its 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength released in October, the Heritage Foundation noted that “Pyongyang is on the path to developing capabilities that go beyond deterrence to a viable true warfighting strategy.” Top U.S. officials have warned they will fully defend allies against North Korea. Secretary of State Blinken stated that North Korea “continues its unprecedented pace, scale and scope of ballistic missile launches this year.” On Oct. 25, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned that in the face of Pyongyang’s “deeply irresponsible, dangerous, and destabilizing” actions, the U.S. “will use the full range of [its] defense capabilities to defend [its] allies, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities.” In calls with counterparts in Japan and South Korea, Defense Secretary Austin noted on Oct. 4 that North Korea’s missile launch over Japan was “a clear violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The next day, the Security Council met to discuss North Korea’s missile launches, but China and Russia likely “vetoed the U.S.-led efforts to respond to the North’s missile threats.” 

 The Biden administration is readying for North Korea to carry out a nuclear test. On Oct. 7, the administration announced sanctions on Asian businessmen and companies that aided North Korea’s weapons and military development. Among those sanctioned are Singaporean-registered companies involved in delivering refined petroleum to North Korea. U.S. officials are open to negotiations with Pyongyang but have not received any diplomatic outreach. 

 North Korea’s provocations have led to possible reconciliation between Japan and Korea. Japanese and South Korean officials met on Oct. 25 to discuss ways to improve the countries’ relationship, which are “badly strained” over Japanese wartime actions. 


At the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), Pham Ngoc Minh Trang discusses negotiations for the possible adoption of a South China Sea code of conduct (COC) between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As negotiations have now taken longer than the negotiation of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), some observers have called for abandoning the COC. The author claims that China and ASEAN differ fundamentally in their interpretation of UNCLOS, specifically with regard to historic rights (China views historic rights claims as falling outside the scope of the convention, while ASEAN views the convention as the legal framework within which all activities must be carried out). The author argues that a successful South China Sea COC is unattainable if the role of UNCLOS is undermined in the negotiations; the convention must be faithfully applied by all parties.

Also at AMTI, Richard Javad Heydarian discusses how Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who assumed office earlier this year, surprised those who expected him to continue Rodrigo Duterte’s “subservient” stance toward China in the South China Sea by in fact adopting a more “uncompromising position.” Heydarian argues that Marcos Jr. is not simply reverting to the policies of his “pro-American” predecessors but is, instead, embracing a “multi-vector foreign policy” involving a wide range of partnerships without sacrificing traditional alliances. During his regional meetings, Marcos Jr. has emphasized preservation of a rules-based order and “upholding ASEAN centrality”—Heydarian therefore advocates a “minilateralist” approach: “ad-hoc, issue-specific cooperation among likeminded states—whereby the Philippines, along with other key regional players, should push for a more decisive response to the deteriorating regional maritime landscape.”

At Brookings, Ryan Hass comments on a theme he observed during an August meeting with Taiwan’s leaders—consensus that bad relations between the U.S. and China benefit Taiwan. Hass acknowledges that the “troubling record of America’s leaders negotiating with Beijing over the heads of Taiwan’s leaders” has produced a pattern of negative consequences for Taiwan, but argues that Taiwan’s security grows more precarious when it is viewed as “the central flashpoint” between the major power rivalry. He concludes that Taiwan’s interests are best served when U.S.-China relations are “not too hot, and not too cold.”

On War on the Rocks, Alexander B. Gray discusses the Solomon Islands’ apparent abandonment of democracy and gravitation towards China, which has “aroused Washington to a heightened appreciation of the strategic importance of the South Pacific.” Gray argues that the U.S. must stop “outsourc[ing] its South Pacific diplomacy” to Australia and New Zealand and expand its own direct participation and engagement in the region in order to thwart Beijing’s attempts to gain a foothold in the South Pacific.

At the Harvard International Review, Patrick Mendis predicts that China has its sights set on expanding its influence into the Indian Ocean, which he says it traditionally referred to in literature and poetry as the “Western Ocean,” as part of its 2049 centennial goal and “great rejuvenation.” He discusses the August docking of the Chinese “spy ship” Yuan Wang 5 in Sri Lanka over the protests of India and the U.S., which he claims China achieved by leveraging Sri Lanka’s “mounting debts to China” and historic anti-India sentiments to gain Sri Lanka’s goodwill. According to Mendis, China’s investment in Sri Lanka is part of a phased and strategic approach to assert dominance in the Indian Ocean without fighting and one day, once dominance is achieved, rename it as the “Western Ocean” for posterity.

And at Heritage Foundation, Brent Sadler advocates for a modern naval act inspired by the successful Naval Act of 1938 in order to remedy the U.S. Navy’s ship procurement plan shortfalls of recent decades. Citing a “rapidly deteriorating security environment” similar to the late 1930s and indicating that military conflict with China could be decided at sea within the next decade, Sadler argues in favor of elevating shipbuilding to its own legislative act, removing it from direct competition with other military budget requirements. He recommends one-time legislation to authorize $152.3 billion for a “block buy” of 45 ships through 2027.

Teresa Chen is a J.D. student at Harvard Law School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Affairs from Yale University.
Alana Nance is a J.D. student at Harvard Law School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Chinese from the U.S. Naval Academy and served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Han-ah Sumner is a second-year J.D. student at Harvard Law School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Ethics, Politics and Economics from Yale University.

Subscribe to Lawfare