It seems the domestic political situation in China would force them to take action against any blockade of their artificial islands in the South China Sea. China’s advanced ballistic missile capability is how they would likely respond. Before any blockade is called for I hope people fully understand the risks:
Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon chief, didn’t get where he is by being nice to China. When Beijing tried to force his company to abandon a gas exploration project in the waters off Vietnam in 2008, ExxonMobil showed it the finger. BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and several others caved to Chinese pressure. ExxonMobil is still there, drilling on a Vietnamese license in waters also claimed by China.
Is Tillerson about to do the same on behalf of the United States? On Wednesday, the secretary of state-designate seemed ready to give China the finger again. He called on the incoming Trump administration to deny China access to the seven artificial island bases it has built in the southern part of the South China Sea.
In response to a question about whether he would support a more aggressive posture in the South China Sea, he told his Senate confirmation hearing, “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” The jaws of the Asia policy-watching community hit the floor. [Foreign Policy]
You can read the rest at the link, but the author thinks Tillerson may have misspoke and meant blockading any action by the Chinese to build a base on the Scarborough Shoal which would be less dangerous, but still quite a risky strategy to implement if China is committed to forcing the issue. It seems it would be a tough sell to the American people to risk war with China over the Scarborough Shoal.
The other wild card in all of this is what if President Duerte in the Philippines cuts a deal with China to let them build on the shoal which is claimed by the Philippines?