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The Importance of Geographical Location: Insights from The Diplomat

China and the United States are locked in a maritime rivalry, with both sides exaggerating the other’s intentions and capabilities. However, both have emphasized the need to avoid war, despite the real possibility of accidental conflict escalation. Encounters between their militaries in China’s surrounding waters are frequent, with increasing stakes and advanced military technologies further complicating the situation.

The management of this competition requires strategic and operational coordination. Both countries need to consider the extent to which they can accept each other’s presence and coexist peacefully, as well as establish effective maritime and air rules of conduct. Washington must accommodate Beijing’s concerns about sovereignty and national security, while Beijing needs to work towards developing crisis management mechanisms with the U.S. to minimize interference from these issues.

Effective crisis management could start with uncontested high seas, eventually leading to mechanisms for more complex areas. International law and existing communication channels provide a foundation, but both parties need to establish effective communication mechanisms across various levels of their armed forces. Once trust and practice are established on the high seas, more complex areas can be addressed.

In a series of articles, Chinese and American experts aim to address the misperceptions that contribute to the increasing instability in the bilateral relationship. Find the whole series here.

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