Hey, China, this is why democracies beat autocracies in a fight. (So back off the South China Sea.)

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama toast during a State Dinner, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Who wins a bar fight? The person with the most friends at the bar.

Who wins a war? The country that fights alongside the most allies.

This simple intuition provides an overlooked explanation for an important academic controversy. Democracies win almost all of the wars they start and about two-thirds of the wars in which they are the targets. If we push the bar fight analogy a little farther, we can also understand why being a democracy, and seeking a particular type of objective, is helping the U.S. build a large coalition to prepare for potential bar fights in places like Eastern Europe, the Middle East or the South China Sea.

Obama told China to slow down in the South China Sea.

On his November trip the Philippines, President Obama called on China to halt the militarization of conflicts in the South China Sea, where China has been sparring with the U.S. and its allies over islands, navigation rights, and access to natural resources. Obama also announced $250 million in military aid to our allies in the region.

The U.S. is working actively, and successfully, to build large coalitions to support its goals in the South China Sea and elsewhere. By contrast, adversaries like China and Russia largely stand alone in these disputes.

This is counterintuitive in some ways. For many members of the U.S. coalition in Asia, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, China is the nearer neighbor and a rising trade partner. China is likely more economically important to the future of these countries than the U.S. Similarly, Ukraine and the Baltics share a border with Russia, not the United States. So why do these countries (seek to) ally with us?

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/12/15/hey-china-this-is-why-democracies-beat-autocracies-in-a-fight-so-back-off-the-south-china-sea/

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