Control of the South China Sea By Jacob SChorsch

The dispute of who has control of the South China Sea is one that has been going on for years. Several countries claim to have complete power of the sea, but few have evidence to back them up. For example, China and Taiwan both claim that their "historic rights" give them the control to the sea, but the international court at the Hague ruled that China has no legal rights to 95% of what they claim is theirs. The court also ruled that China had violated international maritime rights by interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum transporting, and by making artificial islands on land that wasn't theirs. China has refused to accept this ruling and continues to violate and not abide by international maritime law. To make matters worse, Vietnam and the Philippines both claim the majority of the South China Sea as their own.

One of the focal points in the dispute is a 2,500 acre island called Scarborough Shoal. In 2012, China seized control of the island from the Philippines, and barred Filipino fishermen from the area, a part of the sea that is rich in fishing grounds. China has explicitly said that any fisherman found operating in "its" waters can be sentenced to a year in jail. As China currently controls the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands, adding Scarborough Shoal to that list would give them enormous benefits in terms of warfare strategy and economic growth. The "strategic triangle" would make the range of Chinese fighter jets extend across the entire sea. Few doubt that China plans to militarize the island, In addition, the South China Sea is rich in natural resources, and almost five trillion dollars pass through it each year in trade. While Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Brunei currently control small sections of the watery, China controlling the entire South China Sea would significantly disrupt the main passageway of oil between the Middle East and Korea and Japan. Lastly, Scarborough Shoal is only 150 miles away from Basa Air Base, near Manila, Philippines. Basa is one of five places that US forces are allowed to use temporarily. With tension rising between these two superpowers, China's control of Scarborough Shoal would be uncomfortably close to that of the US's.

As America transitions to a new president's regime, and the thoughts and ideas of his cabinet nominees, one has spoken out about this subject. Rex Tillerson, the newly appointed Secretary of State said that he will send China a clear signal that their building on the islands must stop, and that he will enforce an access ban on the islands. However, the message wasn't received so well in China. Also, a Filipino foreign secretary said that the Chinese had been trying to use the Philippines' black sand, but the Americans stopped it. Chinese president Xi Jinping responded by saying that America would have to wage war on China to enforce the access ban. Many experts have agreed with him that a blockade is an act of war and may provoke a large scale conflict. America believes that a blockade would give other nations the freedom to fish and drill for oil in the South China Sea. It would also destroy Chinese attempts to block U.S. naval ships from transiting, exercising, or gathering intelligence in the South China Sea. America is worried that building a blockade and provoking military conflict would lose the support of American allies in Asia, who want to avoid a conflict between superpowers. However, Obama stated that he would physically deter any attempts at building on the Scarborough Shoal, so Tillerson might have only been continuing that idea, by banning construction ships access to establish a militarized island. Beijing has said that it will allow free commercial shipping in the South China Sea, but believes that the United States should "stay out of its backyard". To make their point clear, China seized an American underwater drone.

China has asked America several times to "stay out of the conflict, as they are not a party involved in the dispute". China wishes to solve the dilemma by working it out with other South Asian countries one on one, as China is the world's second largest economy, and they have, in the past, been able to resolve issues by offering lucrative trade deals and investments to other, poorer nations. For example, China has kept peace with Malaysia by providing an economic boost, rather than through military confrontation. Taiwan has backed out of the conflict, as their historic claims are identical to China's, and the Philippines have backed out of the conflict over competing sea claims as Duterte diversifies foreign policy away from old ally the United States. China's largest remaining competition is Vietnam, who may have succumbed to China's extravagant offers. In the 1970's, China and Vietnam clashed over control of the Paracel and the Spratly islands. In 2014, a boat-ramming crash caused Vietnam to hold many deadly anti-China riots, yet recently, they both offered each other trade deals. Though it's hard to believe that Vietnam has cashed out, it is certainly a possibility that they needed a boost from the world's second largest economy.

Though the conflict is nowhere near to reaching a conclusion, I can only hope that the situation does not get out of hand, as many countries have altered their course of action because the American president, Donald Trump, is "unpredictable". This issue applies to people in the U.S and is extremely important because a large-scale war could affects the entire globe.

The history of ancient China is seen through this conflict in many different ways. For example, China's behavior and ignorance towards other countries does not represent the fundamental ideas in Daoism. They have forced their beliefs and action upon the islands that they claim as theirs, although there is no proof that it is actually China's. In terms of Confucianism, China used to be ruled by a Confucian approach, where the goal was harmony and peace. Now, China is only interested in strengthening its military and expanding its control over foreign waters and areas.


What is the history and the effects of the dispute in the South China Sea.







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