Following President Donald Trump’s recent recantation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), there are strong signs that countries in Asia and the Pacific region are turning away from the US and leaning towards China as the Trump administration emphasises “America First.”
By pre-emptively eliminating tools like economic statecraft, the US administration will only have hard power to counteract China’s ambitions. That would probably mean an attempted military blockade against the Chinese navy in the South China Sea.
However, such a strategy will increase the likelihood of a great power conflict between the US and China. China is likely to believe the US is trying to contain its rise, a perception already popular among the leadership in Beijing. The combination of a lack of trade incentives and heavy on military posturing, a Trump strategy of peace through strength will only empower Chinese hard-liners and increase the chances of a superpower conflict.