Showdown in the South China Sea: Beijing and Washington Struggle for Dominion over the “World Island”
Harrington Professor of History, UW-Madison
SEPTEMBER 22, 2017
206 INGRAHAM HALL
Today, the shoals of the South China Sea are arguably the only place on the planet where there is a risk of armed conflict between nuclear-armed superpowers, drawing several Southeast Asian nations into these rising tensions. Using Sir Halford Mackinder’s seminal 1904 treatise that both created the study of “geopolitics” and identified the “world island” as the pivot for global power, this presentation sees current tensions arising from rival superpower strategies for the exercise of global power. Washington is struggling to maintain its chain of bases along the Asian littoral from Japan to the Philippines as leverage for control over the vast Eurasian land mass. By contrast, Beijing seeks to unify Eurasia economically through a trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure, while slicing through U.S. strategic encirclement of the continent by building military bases in the Arabian and South China Sea.