In This Review

The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia
The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia
By Bill Hayton
Yale University Press, 2014, 320 pp

Hayton, a journalist based in the United Kingdom, argues that even with China’s military buildup, China’s navy is technologically 20 years behind its U.S. counterpart, that Washington’s solid relationships with many Asian countries give the United States a distinct advantage over China, and that the tough talk of Chinese military hawks is merely tactical bluffing. But his masterful history of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea supports concerns that China is pursuing a so-called salami-slicing strategy to gain dominance of that body of water. Hayton argues that China’s territorial claims there, which run afoul of international law, are rooted in a sense of entitlement and in strategic interests—and not, as many observers contend, in a desire to secure undersea oil resources. He believes that for this reason, such claims are unlikely to be resolved by diplomatic bargaining or international courts. Although cooperation would be a better way out for all sides, Hayton concludes that “the logic is toward conflict in the South China Sea.”