When the elephants are battling or making love, it’s the ants that get squashed.

Back to the South China Sea amigos

This article is a great follow-up on my last edition. Mr. Landler writes about ongoing and prospective conflicts fought on water.It is concerning the South China Sea, the Isreal – Palastine conflict, the Arctic and vast offshore resource sources. Take a look at the graphic if you are not keen on reading the whole article (you will find the link on the left hand side under the header “Multimedia”). It is really interesting though to see how economic issues dictate a nations foreign policy strategy.

“Most international experts on maritime disputes, including even some Chinese ones, regard China’s claim to be inconsistent with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China’s claim is represented by the so-called “U-shaped line” or “nine-dashed line” map that depicts a line encircling most of the South China Sea.”


This article is great as it looks into the reasons why the disputes are happening now and not years ago.

“It is more or less clear that Chinese foreign policy in the South China Sea is to reduce, if not neutralize, American influence. Simply put, Asia-Pacific isn’t big enough to accommodate an historic superpower and a rising regional power.”


It is interesting to see why the US and China are looking for maritime and offshore security. While this article is a very military and strategic analysis of the situation in the Pacific between China and the US, it also gives you a historic perspective and assessment of the situation.


“Without having the courage of conviction to go to an international court, China relies on using its superior hard and soft powers to press its claim against smaller Southeast Asian countries in the area. Against this pressure, Southeast Asian parties to the dispute need to improve their individual and collective strength but they also need support from major powers, such as the US, India, Japan, Russia and European Union.”


The small ones are looking for bigger friends…


This article is a good assessment of possible threats due to the South China Sea issue: socio-economic threats, irregular threats (e.g. piracy) and regular threats (e.g. interstate conflict).


And here comes the Indian view on the South China Sea conflict. India and China are the two most populated countries in the world; they are neither friends nor enemies but two competing economic powerhouses of the current era. China is causing India to stay more alert than needed about its coastal security by undertaking naval activities in the Indian Ocean whereas India is getting involved in the South China Sea conflict by supporting and cooperating with e.g. Vietnam and the US. Where this is heading? We will see.


Neither friends nor enemies…


Bilateral vs. multilateral – the Chinese conflict management approach vs. the others approach


The US focus shifting East

And yet again the same message, America must reconsider its long-term strategy and shift its focus towards the East. Henry Kissinger suggested a “Pacific  Community” and considering the ongoing economic shift towards East Asia, he and the other scholars suggesting US foreign policy focus moving towards China and its neighbors is the right long-term strategy approach. In order to cure its own weaknesses, the US has to focus its economic and political policies towards the Asia-Pacific region.

“American foreign policy starts at home, and that means reining in budget deficits over the long term, reviving economic growth and job creation in the short term, and addressing the country’s deteriorating infrastructure. Indeed, America’s “aged modernity” has become a drag on its competitiveness, as well as an insult to its international image and a risk to the safety of its citizens.”


ASEAN will become an important “tool” for US foreign policy! Why? The reasons are stated below…

“It may, however, be non-Asean members, the US and China, who decide how much attention the bloc will get in the coming years. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broadcast America’s new commitment to the region during their visit to Indonesia last week.”

“The US plans to use Southeast Asia as a testing ground to find ways to interact with China on issues the two countries don’t agree upon, analysts said, specifically on China’s claims on much of the South China Sea.”


“It bluntly states that a new U.S. diplomacy with the 10 nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is needed, and recommends using ASEAN as a hub for Washington’s engagement with Asia on a much wider scale. There’s also a need and an opportunity for the United States to engage with ASEAN more closely as a hub for a broader approach to Asia, and to build on the newly established U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the appointment of Ambassador David Carden as the first U.S. resident representative to ASEAN.”

“Importantly, there appears to be a dawning in the Western conscious that ASEAN will economically integrate as a community by 2015, opening their economies to free trade in goods, services and investments, encompassing a population of about 500 million people.” (The population of this area is bigger than the EU or the US and since most of the economies are still growing at a large scale on average, the ASEAN market as a whole will become an important and attractive trade partner for the US and the EU)


This is an article on the recently held APEC meeting in Hawai’i. There has also been another meeting of a counter movement, called the Moana Nui, and this article explains the values and missions that this movement/organization stands for. It’s a good article to compare APEC and the Moana Nui movement, which are clearly not working on reaching the same targets. Globalization vs. De-Globalization! Have a read.

The articles’ quotes below are mostly concerned with the header of this chapter and therefore the shift of the US foreign policy focus.

“Also during the summit, President Obama conveyed some harsh words to China that it must ‘play by the rules’ and act more ‘grown up’ since it now occupies a more globally influential role.”

“Although Washington is posing China as a military threat, the reality is that in 2010, the United States spent $720 billion on its military, compared with China’s $116 billion, and it’s the United States that has hundreds of bases in the Asia-Pacific, whereas China has none.”

Bruce Gagnon of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space says the U.S. missile defense system encircling Russia and China with forward deployment can signal to the United States’ historic Cold War enemies that the interruption of the free flow of commerce, or any action counter to U.S. interests, will be met with military force. “China imports 80 percent of their oil on ships. If the Pentagon can choke off China’s ability to transport these vital resources, then the U.S. would hold the keys to China’s economic engine.”


So, that’s it for today. It became another post on the South China Sea and the power politics between China and the US. As this might not be interesting to all of you, the next post will be on Burma and Thailand. Burma is delivering some good news, whereas Thailand, still coping with the flood, is possibly heading for some new Thaksin-centred troubles.

Stay tuned!


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