Is it still valid that America conducts patrols and operates hundreds of bases in scores of countries, boxing in rival powers?
Oh fuck yeah. That was pretty much the deal at the end of WWII - "don't worry about anything, we got this."
Graeber made the point that ultimately, all rules are backed up by force and the "rule of law" means there are cops and/or tanks and/or nuclear missiles making you pay your tab at the bar. China was just a vast hinterland we used to sap Japanese strength in the Pacific; then Mao Zedong starved fifty-odd million people, then Zhou Enlai dragged the country up through the ruins and now here they are dredging missile bases out of the South China Sea.
Ultimately, this is about who run Bartertown.
China has never won an encounter with a major foreign power. They were subjugated by the Brits when they tried to get their people off smack. You should get the Korean take on every other nation around them; I've heard Hangul was created because Sejong the Great wanted to be as un-Chinese as possible. Robert Kaplan, meanwhile, recounts meeting with officials in Vietnam and being surprised that they were so friendly to an American considering the Vietnam War; one of them said something like "But Mr. Kaplan - we've been at war with the Chinese for centuries and they're our biggest trading partner! What's one war between colleagues?"
One of the reasons I subscribe to George Friedman's Geopolitical Futures is he publishes shit like this:
So yeah - Laura's logic is completely valid. What Laura isn't mentioning, however, is that her life and the lives of everyone she's ever met have been predicated on the fact that everything in that view above is subject to American influence and has been since 1899. Do the Chinese "deserve" sovereignty over their pseudo-territorial waters? If you're Chinese, absolutely. If you're American,