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Mahan and the Problem of China

3 3 20
12.10.2021

Chinese President Xi Jinping has publicly called for the annexation of Taiwan. Chinese warplanes have entered Taiwan’s air defense space with increasing frequency. Reuters reported on October 11, 2021, that China carried out beach-landing military exercises in a province opposite Taiwan. We may be drifting toward war in the South China Sea.

The German political geographer Friedrich Ratzel once wrote that, ”great statesmen have never lacked a feeling for geography... When one speaks of a healthy political instinct, one usually means a correct evaluation of the geographic bases of political power.” One hundred twenty years ago, the American naval historian and strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote an article for the North American Review which was later included in a book called The Problem of Asia in which he identified the geographical middle-belt of Asia as the “debatable and debated ground,” ranging from Asia Minor (present day Turkey) in the west to Korea and Japan in the east.

Mahan at the time was one of our nation’s most respected and influential public intellectuals. He had served in the Union Navy during the Civil War, and later taught history and strategy at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island (eventually becoming president of the college). His second book, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History (which was based in part........

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