Friday, 17 June 2016

South China Sea

The rise of China is a threat to American's hyperpower status. So, we have Obama's "pivot to Asia". From Chinese leadership, it is a cold-war containment strategy. To encircle China, the land is no longer a possibility given the success of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which helps China to secure a friendly relationship with its land borders. So, American's strategy has been around the Eastern Coast. From WWII, when Japan occupied the coastal cities, China suffered from lack of supply because transportation by road was difficult. The current chock point is the Strait of Malacca - a narrow sealink connecting Asia with Middle East and Europe. Of course, with the largest Navy base at Singapore, America has that in their control. Another weak point is the South China Sea (SCS). Since there are dispute with the ownership of some of the islands, this is a point the American hawks can use. Recent months have seen increased provocative activities in SCS using the excuse of "freedom of navigation".

China has never denied any commercial navigation in SCS. So all this "freedom of navigation" is just an excuse for American hawks to create pressure to China.

In response, we see China increasing the speed of building (including reclamation of land) within SCS. Of course, China was not the first in such activities. Philippine and Vietnam have been doing that for years. The difference is the speed and scale.

With tension increasing, American hawks like both Philippine and Vietnam to be included under Uncle Sam's "umbrella of protection". Recently, American has lifted the weapon ban to Vietnam and in discussion to reactivate navy base in Philippine.

Like any USA foreign policy, Uncle Sam is based on military power and coercion.

Chinese response is a broad "one belt one road" strategy. China is demonstrating to the world that a poor country can rise by following a path of peaceful development. The rise of China is by manufacturing, by giving opportunity to every citizen a chance to participate in a global human enterprise called trade. China can offer both investment and market.

With a change of top leaders in Philippine and Vietnam, the tide is changing towards Chinese favour. As I am writing this, reports have come up showing that Vietnam is asking China for help in finding a missing coastguard plane. The "Philippine president-elect, Rodrigo Duterte, called Xi Jinping a “great president” – after Xi told him in a congratulatory note that bilateral ties should “get back on the track of sound development”.

“His government will most likely focus on repairing frayed ties by finding a modus vivendi in the South China Sea, probably through informal agreements if not a formalised deal on joint exploitation of resources,”he said.

Political observers in China agree that a joint development between the two claimant countries could be a way out.

“Joint exploration is possible. China has always wanted joint exploration even during Aquino’s term,” said Xu Liping, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Asian-Pacific Studies.[source]
Although American's strategy in SCS is unraveling, the Strait of Malacca is still tightly controlled by American.

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