The evolution of US-Sino great power competition in East Asia has emerged as a key geostrategic issue in international politics. A central question is whether the ‘geography of the peace’ will prevail where, despite their natural predisposition to compete for regional hegemony, the two great powers respect each other’s ‘spheres of influence’. This concept assumes that, as a major continental power, China remains preoccupied with securing its land borders and expanding its influence on the Eurasian land mass. In contrast, this article argues that the Sino-US rivalry likely leads to the emergence of a ‘geography of conflict’ in East Asia because of overlapping zones of strategic interests. Applying a classical geopolitics approach, it shows that the geopolitical models of British geographer Sir Halford Mackinder, US naval strategist Alfred Thayer and Dutch-American geostrategist Nicholas Spykman are useful to explain the current behaviour of China and the United States, and why, as a result, East Asia is becoming more contested.