Can the United States accommodate the rise of China without the strife that typically accompanies a disturbance to a settled equilibrium? Discerning how China views the seas will help answer this question. We argue that vocal strategists in Beijing look to Alfred Thayer Mahan for guidance on maritime strategy. Mahanian sea-power theory has predisposed many in Beijing to regard the South China Sea much as Americans once regarded the Caribbean Sea: as a preserve where commercial and political imperatives demand dominant naval power. Adjusting U.S. strategy to deter and conciliate a more assertive China is a critical task confronting Washington.