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On October 15, 1962, photographs from a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft revealed that the Soviet Union was secretly assembling intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Cuba. A week later, President Kennedy publicly revealed the discovery of the missiles and announced that the United States was imposing a maritime quarantine to prevent the introduction of additional missiles and materials to Cuba. Following a number of confrontations at sea, on October 28, 1962, Nikita Khrushchev gave in to U.S. demands for the removal of nuclear weapons from Cuba. As Secretary of State Dean Rusk stated: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.” Nearly fifty years later, two rival powers once again stood eyeball to eyeball, but this time it was the United States that “blinked.” China, in recent years, has strenuously objected to U.S. intervention in the South China, East China, and Yellow Seas. Despite proclaiming an interest in the region and voicing support for its regional partners, the United States, until recently, has largely failed to demonstrate its support by taking action. China’s neighbors have been forced to succumb to Chinese pressure, with no actual assistance from the United States. By engaging its “anti-access strategy,” China has been the victor in numerous high profile showdowns with neighboring claimants in this region. China has flexed its newfound muscle and has been successful in using force and threatening economic sanctions to accomplish its goals. These events mark the beginning of the final phase of China’s effort to erect a new great wall at sea—a wall that has been under construction since the end of World War II. China has built walls since the fifth century B.C. to protect itself from invasion. While previous wallbuilding efforts were confined to land, China has turned its attention to the sea and is attempting to assert sovereignty over disputed islands and vast maritime resources, to protect and expand its southern and eastern maritime boundaries, and to enhance its naval capabilities to counter U.S. Navy dominance in the Pacific. Unless the United States and its allies take immediate, proactive steps to counter Beijing’s resurgence in its self-proclaimed zone of influence, any hope of keeping China from dominating the western Pacific will be lost.



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