China is increasingly making itself heard in the international system day by day. Beijing is rapidly progressing towards becoming a more influential player in global politics. China frequently expresses equality narratives towards the West, particularly the United States (US), through the Global South. However, Washington aims to maintain its global hegemony. Therefore, the intensity of competition between the two actors continues to escalate at an increasing pace.
One of the most important geographies where the competition between China and the United States takes shape is the South China Sea. Beijing, through the Belt and Road Initiative, seeks to create a global network and expand its trade. It can be argued that the straits in the region are of critical importance for this trade. What needs to be emphasized here is the effort by the Washington administration to control these straits. This effort is carried out through cooperation with regional states on various issues. It can be said that the aim of the United States is to restrict China’s maneuvering space.
The Washington administration primarily aims to hinder Beijing’s economic development. In this context, preventing China from gaining more strength is a priority in American foreign policy. In contrast, the Beijing government is striving to build the infrastructure for a secure global network in which it plays a leading role through the Belt and Road Initiative. Therefore, it is possible to say that China is moving towards a proactive foreign policy rather than a passive one. Indeed, according to Beijing, global security is directly related to national security due to its relationship with development.
There can be discussed two significant factors in Beijing’s rise. The first is its expansion of political influence through various projects and funds without interfering in countries’ internal affairs. The second is its effort to translate its economic power into military power. China argues that it needs a strong military to avoid repeating past defeats as it progresses toward its 2049 goal. China’s accelerated steps in this regard have also caught the attention of its rival, the United States. The emphasis by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks on the necessity of innovation in their strategic competition with China  serves as evidence of this situation. Therefore, while the Chinese military may continue to grow, it is likely that the United States will undertake various initiatives to maintain its technological superiority.
As China strengthens its position in global politics, it emphasizes international cooperation and potential partnerships. It can be said that the Beijing government, aiming for a new order, is making efforts through BRICS to construct an alternative through the Global South. This is because the United States’ containment efforts, with its forward-leaning policies, are making it difficult for China to achieve its 2049 goals within the existing system. Therefore, it could be argued that China is attempting to break the influence of Western actors with new allies. Ultimately, the United States’ military partnerships in the South China Sea contribute to the hardening of Beijing’s stance
In order to prevent China from becoming an influential power in the region, Washington is cooperating with Beijing’s rivals, especially militarily. In response, it also increases pressure on Beijing’s potential partners. Washington’s warning to North Korea not to sell arms to Russia  is an example of such pressure. On the other hand, the US approval of an additional $80 million military aid package to Taiwan under the Foreign Military Financing Program  is an important example of Washington’s support for China’s rivals. What should be emphasized here is that the Washington administration sees Taiwan as China’s “soft underbelly”.
The US effort to wear down its rival does not only focus on Taiwan. While increasing its support for Beijing’s rivals, Washington is also trying to undermine its rival’s legitimacy in the international community. In this context, Washington recognizes the sensitivity of Beijing’s “One China” policy and is attempting to undermine it. In the face of the US’s coercive attitude towards China, Beijing has adopted a cautious stance.
In conclusion, China is striving to translate its economic power into diplomatic influence while challenging the Western-led unipolar international system. The United States, not wanting to lose its hegemony, has engaged in a strategic competition with China. It can be argued that the primary theater where the Beijing-Washington rivalry takes shape is the South China Sea. At the core of China’s rise lies economic development. The U.S. aims to hinder China’s trade by controlling the straits in the region. It can be said that the Washington administration leverages its rival’s weaknesses and seeks to undermine China’s long-term plans. In response, China continues to increase its global influence in the face of the United States’ confrontational stance
 “US To Counter Growing Size of China’s Military With ‘Autonomous Systems’”, Aljazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/29/us-to-counter-chinese-militarys-scale-advantage-with-autonomous-systems, (Erişim Tarihi: 29.08.2023).
 “US Warns N Korea Against Selling Weapons to Russia for Ukraine War”, Aljazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/30/us-warns-north-korea-against-selling-weapons-to-russia-for-ukraine-war, (Erişim Tarihi: 30.08.2023).
 “US Approves Military Aid for Taiwan Under Programme for Sovereign States”, Aljazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/31/us-approves-military-aid-for-taiwan-under-programme-for-sovereign-states, (Erişim Tarihi: 31.08.2023).