The U.S-China confrontations in the South China Sea have been a case regularly cited by media and scholars to evaluate whether China and the US will eventually fight a war for competing for hegemonic status. The Thucydides Trap argument proposes that the US and China are going to a hegemonic war as Chinese power continues to rise. This paper provides an evaluation of current US-China competition in the South China Sea using a rationalist approach. It argues that the US' active involvement in the South China Sea would increase the probability for China and other claimants to the sovereignty in the sea area to cooperate and decrease the likelihood of war. Empirically, the strategy shifts, national interests, as well as recent activities of China and the US in this region will be discussed to elaborate the argument. Although confrontations between the US and China have frequently arisen in the South China Sea under Xi and Trump, no sign of escalation has been seen. As such, the current US-China competition in the South China Sea should be better described as under a situation of ＂competitive coexistence＂ rather than under a Thucydides Trap.
Tamkang Journal of International Affairs 24(4), p.1-66