The Chinese military has embarked a vast buildup and modernization programme becoming one of the most powerful and capable militaries in the world.

The Chinese military has embarked on a vast buildup and modernization programme becoming one of the most powerful and capable militaries in the world.
Photo Credit: scmp.com

Very dangerous power game in the South China Sea – (part 1 of 2)

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“This is a real geopolitical conflict zone – a tinderbox”  R Anderson

An international arbritration tribunal in the Hague has ruled that China has no claim to disputed areas in the South China sea. It also said China has violated the sovereignty of the Philippines, and has degraded the marine environment.

The ruling has pleased neighbouring states, like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam which also have claims to the area. However, China, which has already used force to back its claims, insists the ruling is null and void, adding a not so subtle threat that it will protect its interests.

One Canadian expert says the area is a tinderbox, but that Canada could use its previous influence to calm tensions.

Robert Adamson (BA LLM) is Faculty at the Beedie School of Business of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and a former member of Canada-Indonesia ‘South China Sea Informal Working Group’ when that organization was in operation.

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Robert Adamson, now a Faculty professor at Simon Fraser University also served on the former international ’South China Sea Informal Working Group’
Robert Adamson, now a Faculty professor at Simon Fraser University also served on the former international ’South China Sea Informal Working Group’ © Simon Fraser University

A deadly “accident’ could easily happen

For some time China has been seeking to extend its control over the important South China Sea. To do this it has been increasing the size of tiny disputed islands and also creating new islands on top of undersea shoals in both cases by dredging and piling material onto them.

They then claim this as Chinese territory and have attempted to extend their economic and military control over a vast region encompassing most of the sea. The Chinese delineate this area as within what they call the ‘nine-dash line’.

While there are vast economic concerns, China in the past many years has also vastly increased the size of its military forces and technology.  Occupying the artificial islands is seen by analysts as an effort to increase its control over the entire region

China’s artificial islands from underwater reef in August 2014,.....
China’s artificial islands: from barely exposed mostly underwater reef in August 2014,….. ©  DigitalGlobe, via the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, and CNES, via Airbus DS and IHS J
..to full blown large island with military base with sheltered port, long airstrip and vast infrastructure by Sept. 2015
..to full blown large island with military base with sheltered port, long airstrip and vast infrastructure by Sept. 2015 © DigitalGlobe, via the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, and CNES, via Airbus DS and IHS Ja

Adamson says China has ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and choosing – as it seems so far to ignore this ruling makes this an important watershed moment for international law.

China has been ramping up domestic fervour over the situation, and with so much its military, naval and air, and military activity from various regional nations, and the increasing presence of US military assets, an “accident” could easily happen says Adamson.

A satellite image shows militarization of the artificial islands. Photo shows construction of possible radar tower facilities at an artificial island near the Cuarteron Reef in the South China Sea
A satellite image shows militarization of the artificial islands. Photo shows construction of possible radar tower facilities at an artificial island near the Cuarteron Reef in the South China Sea © Reuters

It’s a tinderbox

The U.S. especially has been adamant about asserting the right to the international law principle of ‘freedom of navigation’ in the area which is one of the most important international shipping areas in the world. For surrounding nations, in addition to commercial shipping it is also an important fishing zone, and one with potential oil and gas reserves.

Six regional governments have overlapping claims, but China’s *nine dasy line* (red) greatly infringes on all of them (claimed areas are shown in faint grey lines). The area sees several trillion dollars in shipping, and in addition to fishing, there are potential vast resources in oil and gas
Six regional governments have overlapping claims, but China’s *nine dasy line* (red) greatly infringes on all of them (claimed areas are shown in faint grey lines). The area sees several trillion dollars in shipping, and in addition to fishing, there are potential vast resources in oil and gas © Reuters

Adamson says the area is a tinderbox and unless China and others affirm their commitment to international law then the probable result will be military conflict.

How serious can this get? We just don’t want to find out

He adds  that on a scale of one to ten, the situation is already at an eight, and likely to go higher if China refuses negotiations and insists on a hardline position and the other nations including the U.S., also do not draw back.  He adds that unless parties agree to negotiations “it could go easily go to a ten, and who knows from there, we just don’t want to find out.”

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4 comments on “Very dangerous power game in the South China Sea – (part 1 of 2)
  1. Avatar liezyl barocca says:

    better to stop china in an early stage than to suffer forever due to their greediness behavior.the whole world must take action as possible.they can own an island but not…,the sea or a pacific.good if the world will banned all their products.it is a great insult to the world for disrespect to international court.the china next move will be…,to claim again the atlantic and the pacific ocean or more!!!!!all china made product are dangerous to human health due to mercury content and etc.they used to blackmail the whole world as if they are good in behavior but with bad intention

  2. Avatar Goffy says:

    The Hague International Court in Netherlands is the embodiment of European Justice and how it (E.U.) views the world according to the mindset of colonial masters.
    To understand China’s view on SCS, one must relate to European Powers occupation of China in 1800’s. Unlike Philippians (American) nor Vietnam (French), China was is never a colony of any colonial powers.
    UN. Law of the Sea sounds great on the surface, but this arbitrary law created in the smoke-filled backroom of power players do more harms than solving problems. It already caused tensions in the South China Sea by accelerating the conflict between claimants.
    What’s worse is that there is no remedy nor enforcement of Hague ruling to the conflict in question. Congrats go to the Hague Court’s brilliant legal minds for not seeing the greater political ramifications and the big picture.
    Asia needs China, E.U. needs China, Africa needs China, Americas needs China for the sake of global stability. Slapping your partner’s face will not get you any love and cooperation that’s urgently needed as world is facing multitudes of serious problems from terrorism to climate to economy…

  3. Avatar D.V.V.S.MURTHY says:

    China is preparing to occupy the whole world by expanding its military bases and harassing smaller nations to bend before them. Even India is victim of Chinese aggression where China claims the state of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh as its own territory. Time is now ripe for the nations of the world to arise to the occasion and stop the aggression of Chinese military and government over our global resources. It seems that Chinese economy already heated up due to rampant developmental activities already having polluted its resources now seeks fresh land and water resources to satisfy the hunger of its people

  4. Avatar Jacob Kovalio says:

    The Beijing regime is conducting 19th century-style aggressive imperialist “gunboat diplomacy” using 21st-century military , political and economic means. The South China Sea attracts most attention due to the Hague verdict but it must not be forgotten that at the same time, Xi Jinping is harassing not only the Philippines but also Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia in the South China Sea, Japan in the East China Sea , India in the Himalayas and in the Indian Ocean etc. This is the kind of foreign policy I call “LEBENSRAUM & Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere with Communist Chinese Characteristics, ” ; moreover, chief “diplomat” and racist regime liar, Wang Yi crassly berating Canadian journalists for asking questions about human rights in XILand , cut a very convincing Chinese RIBENTROPP.