The world news was all abuzz over The Hague tribunal’s unanimous ruling in favor of the Philippines in rejecting all of China’s far reaching claims over the South China Sea. It seems that Marco Polo’s historic testimony of his travels with the huge Chinese trade fleets throughout the South China Sea and beyond was airbrushed from history with The Hague’s ruling of “no historical title” over the waters.
This ruling is by no means an end to the dispute, but it could be the beginning to an end. Both China and the Philippines have stated that they were open to pursing a solution through dialog, and if that happens other competing countries in the South Sea region might follow suit.
Frankly the decision reminds me of the famous Shakespeare quote in his play Much ado about Nothing, “Men were deceivers ever, one foot in sea and one onshore, to one thing never constant”.
Great powers do not allow a tribunal on the other side of the planet to decide a strategic issue against their favor, when there is no enforcement capability. Countries enter into international litigation when they think they can prevail, and exit when it appears they will not. China, as expected, rejected The Hague’s court ruling out of hand, and no one has stepped forward to recommend a punishment.
China has a powerful precedent for its current actions, compliments of the US when it pulled out of Nicaragua versus the United States after it lost an initial jurisdictional challenge over its support for the Contras in 1986. The US exited the International Court of Justice proceeding and began a publicity campaign to disparage the court, similar to what China in doing now. What is good for the goose, is good for the gander.
We could go back even further to the early days of gunboat diplomacy, with the Monroe Doctrine, which carved out the Western hemisphere as its economic domain. The memories of Western trade exploitation enforced by Western navies remain fresh on the minds of China’s leadership and its people. It has had plenty of time to map out its response to Obama’s silly Napoleonic Asia Pivot by countering with its own “China Pivot”.
Lost among all the talk of trade wars, fishing rights, and oil and gas rights is the big elephant in the room that corporate media and diplomats have been mum about, and that is the threat of a preemptive strike from a powerful naval force claiming the right to launch such in “international waters” twelve miles offshore. In the days of smooth bore cannon and even rifled ones that might have been a comfortable buffer, but no longer.
We live now in the day of hypersonic cruise missiles which, if armed with tactical nuclear warheads, can attack and eliminate all coastal defense and command centers within half an hour, eliminating any counterstrike capability and leaving the targeted country’s coastline and commerce a sitting duck.
We once lived in fear of a major nuclear ballistic missile exchange, which would have destroyed the world’s ecosystem. As a young boy in elementary school, I remember the silliness of the duck and cover drills under our school desks, when we had an entire outside wall of windows, which the New York City blast perimeter would make short work of, along with us kids.
That crazy scenario has now been replaced by the new absurd threat of the preemptive strike, a doctrine which for many years had only been an option in the face of an “imminent attack”. But the NeoCons who burrowed into the Clinton administration ushered in a new “blank check” strike doctrine. It gave the US the right to launch a preemptive strike against any country that it deemed could be a threat at some point in the future, leaving the “imminent threat” trigger far in the rear view mirror.
I wanted to use the Shakespeare quote, plus the play title, as I see some major geopolitical game playing going on here. Today the Chinese said they would defend their interests in the South China Sea, and of course they are. They aren’t about to disassemble their newly constructed outer island defensive bastions built for both radar and the hypersonic missiles under development. These island bases are their feet in the sea, whereas the US has it fleet ships and carrier battle groups as their feet in the sea.
The “one foot on land” refers to the major trade deals that China has pending with its neighboring countries, which is also a potent negotiating tool for those involved in solving the South Sea dispute by arbitration, like Vietnam. This is something that China has always pushed as the best route for a solution.
But the US, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to pull off another boogieman scare, creating a funding source for navy expansion, when the smart money deems the ships floating coffins in the next war, due to their anticipated susceptibility to swarm missile attacks and robotic torpedoes… and very affordable attacks at that.
The Asia Pivot is not so much a trade war as it is a banking war. The banksters are not about to give up their stranglehold monopoly on getting a piece of the financial action out of all major trade deals, and the huge ongoing annuity that represents. Russia and China both have nothing against dealing with the Western banking systems, but they also would prefer to keep the bankster fingers from their throats. The sanctions against Russia have given the world a quick education on that emerging threat.
The US is using the South China Sea controversy to ensure future friendly attitudes for US basing rights in the region, and the government insiders pushing that often end up working for the companies that will make huge profits via the long-term logistical supply networks which have to be created and maintained. These are useful networks for “disappearing” offshore profits through an endless variety of tools, the most widely used being false invoicing.
I predict that China and its competing neighbors will eventually come up with some formula for sharing the South China Sea to varying degrees, and with many layers to it. One of those could be insisting, as part of a settlement, that the area should become a demilitarized zone for those outside navies capable of a preemptive strike.
Energy resources could be shared on a proximity formula that also gives weight to the population size of the competing countries, a socialistic “need” twist that would be hard for China to reject. The broad development of resources in the area would stimulate economic growth, and especially consumer earnings and spending, which are critical in supporting a solid middle class lifestyle for all of the ASEAN countries.
A trading partner that is broke is not much of an economic engine when it comes to creating that wonderful ripple effect that all desire in regional economic growth. This is even more critical to China’s New Silk Road plans. The sharing of the South Sea resources could be leveraged into quicker and more inclusive participation in completing the New Silk Road project and turning the economic tables on the Western financial sanctionistas. The sooner China resolves this conflict, the sooner it can enjoy the benefits from doing so, as will its trading partners — a win-win for everybody.
Jim W. Dean, managing editor for Veterans Today, producer/host of Heritage TV Atlanta, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.