Over the last fifteen years, the steady rise of China’s naval capabilities has received a level of attention unmatched since the Soviet navy’s expansion following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yet much of that attention has focused on what that rise has meant for Taiwan’s security or a possible contest with the United States.1 But Beijing’s seaward territorial concerns also reach far into the South China Sea. And it is there that the military balance has most swiftly swung in China’s favor as a result of its modernization program. This article will examine not only how the military balance has shifted, but also what Southeast Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, could do to best preserve their territorial interests in response to that shift.
1Douglas C. Peifer, “China, the German Analogy, and the New AirSea Operational Concept,” Orbis, Winter 2011, pp. 114–131; Richard D. Fisher, Jr., China’s Military Modernization: Building for Regional and Global Reach (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008), pp. 213–251; John Wilson Lewis and Zue Litai,Imagined Enemies: China Prepares for Uncertain War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006), pp. 247–280; George W. Baer, One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy, 1890-1990 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), pp. 367–417.