In all of the struggles for territory in history, none has been quite as ambitious or unusual as a country trying to steal a whole ocean.
But that is what China is actively doing in the ocean south of the mainland: the South China Sea. Bit by bit, it is establishing hegemony over this most important sea where the littoral states — China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam — have territorial claims.
The importance of the South China Sea is hard to overestimate. Some of the most vital international sea lanes traverse it; it is one of the great fishing areas; and the ocean bed, near land, has large reserves of oil and gas. No wonder everyone wants a piece of it — and China wants all of it. Continue reading
Despite commentary that China and the United States are moving closer together, the opposite is the case. In fact, China is mounting a direct, if subtle, challenge to the international order the United States created in the Far East after World War II. Most are aware that China is attempting to leverage growing military strength into a larger, dominating position by laying claims to islands in the East and South China Seas. Few realize that China is attempting to overturn the legal underpinnings of the US position in the western Pacific.
Like the Chinese proverb “to point at the mulberry tree to curse the locust tree”, Beijing’s challenge to Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands is in fact a bid to abolish the entire structure of Far Eastern international relations established by the San Francisco Treaty of September 1951. (The Chinese refer to the Senkakus as Dyiaoyutai, literally a “fishing platform”, but in recent months Beijing has taken to calling Dyiaoyutai the Dyiaoyu Islands to add legal heft to the dispute.) Continue reading