Thursday 19 May 2016

A weird place for a war to start

The South China Sea is becoming ever more a flashpoint in the world. A bunch of islets formerly inhabited by escaping boat people and low utility pirates, is now one of the few places in the World where military superpowers face-off against one another.

Yesterday, yet another incident, with Chinese planes intercepting US ones. Nominally this is all in international airspace but China has decided these islands belong to them and are about to dispute this - when their defences are ready.

There must be a trove of oil and gas in the region to make this such a worthwhile fight - all of which continues to go unmentioned in the press.

Still though, it is strange how often in the world the most remote places and incidences lead to later catastrophe. Let's just hope this can be avoided this time by China learning to compromise.


dearieme said...

If the Americans want to strike poses on this, they might like first to return Hawaii to its indigenous Polynesian people, Florida to Spain, and their southwest to Mexico.

Nick Drew said...

not discounting the oil-n-gas aspect, but I reckon there's another element in play

the Chinese under Xi are dead keen to prove they can do the whole Soft-Power / Hard-Power thing: so far their triumphs include

- laying waste to their countryside to build subsidised solar panels for the west
- dumping subsidised steel on everyone
- making eejits of themselves in Libya and Africa generally
- proving via MH370 that they aren't even much in the know as regards their local airspace
- OK, screwing over the Russians on the gas deal, that was a good one

where better (& where easier) to lay down a Hard-Power marker than the SCS? particularly when you can get started by building islands, which is a glorious demonstration of strength, creativity and determination

Anonymous said...

Its an odd turn of [world] events when the US are essentially backing Vietnamese claims to the area - and the resources.

Perhaps in 50 years it will be the US, Russia and the UK against a militant German dominated EU. Or has this been done already.

Steven_L said...

There must be a trove of oil and gas in the region to make this such a worthwhile fight

Or it's all about 'face'?

James Higham said...

Don't see what's weird about it at all. SCS, Balkans, Middle-East - known flashpoints.

andrew said...

China will not compromise.
They will build villages out of the bones and skin of their dead and populate them with their children if that is needed.

The only thing that will stop this is if the communist party collapses.

Anonymous said...

Red China is in deep shi7.

I do guffaw, at the beeb, Sky, CBS, 'The Economist', Financial Times, WSJ and bloomberg et al, ratting on about the 'openness', the boon of 'yellow goods' and on about the commodities boom (no shit huh?) 'variables' in China.
Calling, like it is some genuine, viable nation of visionary entrepreneurs and as a solid supersized state democracy - it's still RED CHINA even if it calls itself a 'republic'. Ye Gods - the army of economists, consultants and wankers sorry bankers, masters of the universe and Goldman Sachs, plus autocuties trained in Harvard whatev and Ivy league institutions are credulous, talk total toss, are fuqwits.

Consequently, when things are not so 'hot at home', invariably totalitarian regimes can do what they like. There is, nothing like a fomented crisis to take (eyes) away from their economic bollocks and total mishandling of the economy.

The PRC have declared that, the SCS is theirs and always has been, traditional enemies Japan and Vietnam will never see it that way, cue the games.

Bill Quango MP said...

These flashpoints.
Not that long ago a British Prime Minister declared a 200 mile circumference around the South Atlantic nonentity Falklands islands and threatened to shoot or sink anyone who poked their nose in.

And meant it too.

An insignificant pebble of territory was suddenly driving allies to war.

The Chinese feel the same way about the SCS. Its theirs and that's the end of it.
The USA and Vietnam feel differently. And it could easily escalate.

What would President Trump do ?

Electro-Kevin said...

I'm sure that President Trump would listen very carefully to his advisors.

He's not stupid.

Michael said...

The Chinese will NOT compromise. Much of this is about "face" and the Chinese ignoring the existing Treaties regarding territorial limits which specifically forbid the construction of artificial islands or extending existing reefs. Unfortunately without actually invading existing countries the Chinese are left with no option but to pursue this path. The US position is essentially based on the current Law of the Sea and its application to transit in international waters, that free movement of shipping should not be impaired. I think the Chinese may differ in their interpretation like Libya did claiming the Gulf of Sirte was an "Inland Sea".

Timbo614 said...

An old catchphase is in the air "Nuke 'em Donnie!"

AndrewZ said...

I suspect that the following motives are all involved to some degree:
[1] The question of "face"
[2] A desire among the Chinese elite to be Top Nation
[3] The memory of their past subjugation by the European colonial powers and then Japan - "Never Again!" is a powerful motive
[4] The Chinese economy depends heavily on exports, so secure control of the commercial sea lanes around China is becoming a strategic necessity for it

K said...

I've heard it argued that what really ended colonialism was the adoption of Freedom of the Seas by all of the allies in the Atlantic Charter.

Before that if you were a rising economy like say Japan (and Germany before them) you had few trade choices as everywhere else had been snapped by up Britain and the like. Thus it often lead to conflicts as each power tried to build their own "single market" so to speak.

After freedom of the seas there was little reason for existing empires to maintain their territories. Why spend money ruling basket case third world countries when you could just buy crap from them and be sure that you could safely sail it back home?

I think China is still operating on the pre-WWII thinking where in order to trade you need to control the market as they don't trust the West to maintain freedom of the seas if the shit really hit the fan. Also the EU's obsession with growing ever bigger and the the prevalence of mega trade deals like TTIP seems to be locking the whole world down into old fashioned pre-WWII trade areas.

Thud said...

Making enemies (not that they are friends anyway)is not a smart move for China.Through history both nations have punished china and I see no reason why it should be different now as the CPC have an increasingly tenuous hold on the poor Chinese people.

MyChineseNAme said...

Mischief Reef is where it kicks off.

Any time now.