The deteriorating situation in the South China Sea (SCS) is in reaction to the increased US activities in the area. Specifically, there are two aspects that could serve as flashpoints in US-China relations. First, the seeming appropriation by the US of the whole of SCS to implement its hegemonistic policy of “Monroe Doctrine” to make the region America’s extended lake in Asia. The doctrine is given loose application of freedom of navigation to include the right to conduct naval military exercise in the whole stretch of SCS as if to complete the “containment” of China.
Second, the increased US threat to instigate an independence movement in Taiwan to provoke war with China. Support for this could be treated as renouncing the Joint Communiqué signed in 1972. The document is the foundation of the “One-China” policy, it being a precondition to the opening of diplomatic relations.
These two issues continue to separate China and the US, and being exploited today by the Trump administration to drum up anti-Chinese sentiments.
Although the SCS and Taiwan are problems dealing on US-China relations, this is exacerbated by the trade war with the US using every conceivable strategy to exact a bargain. Encouraging Taiwanese independence and increasing arm sales beyond the defense requirement of the runaway province could develop to possible hot war.
One must bear in mind that no outsider can accuse China of threatening the security of the region unless it commits overt acts of aggression. The burden is always to an outsider, it being the presumed aggressor. Nonetheless, US presence in the SCS is premised that it is acting as big brother. This has become the loophole for the US because countries adjacent to the SCS gave no consent to their being classified as de facto ally against China. This role played by the US has also become its license to remain present in the SCS.
This has also allowed the US to unilaterally sponsor countries outside the region to define the goals and objectives of an erstwhile “internal” regional organization. Maybe as a superpower, the US can dictate who should be their enemy or ally, or much more invite foreign powers from other regions to bolster its strength in the SCS. It is even attempting to expand the de facto grouping to justify the creation of Indo-Pacific bloc participated in by India.