Trump is helping Beijing win in the South China Sea

For years now, China has been at war against the United States in the South China Sea - except Washington didn't notice until the process was well under way. The Chinese way of war - modelled after the philosopher of middle antiquity, Sun Tzu - is to win without ever having to fight.

Thus the Chinese have been proceeding by microsteps: reclaim an island here, build a runway there, install a missile battery in a third place, deploy an oil-exploration rig temporarily in disputed waters, establish a governorate and so on.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2018, with the headline 'Trump is helping Beijing win in the South China Sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe