Will there be a war in the South China Sea?

27/09/2014



With tensions have been escalating in recent years in the South China Sea, the possibility of a war is more and more obvious than ever before. Especially, after China’s assertiveness with the placement of giant oil rig HD981 into Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone, it is concerned that a war could break any time. Heated words from Vietnam and the Philippines aimed at China’s moves have caused alarm in the region.
Concerns over the matter have experts talking about the potential for a military conflict. The risk of conflict in the South China Sea is significant.
In the South China Sea, where China’s ambitious “nine-dash line” claim of sovereignty has been disputed by several other claimants, relations have in recent weeks turned remarkably chillier. Vietnam and the Philippines are facing the brunt of Beijing’s ire, and the potential for crisis and conflict is significant. Positions are hardening, willingness to compromise is low, and the fact that the Philippines is an ally of the United States raises the potential for a disastrous crisis and potential conflict between the U.S. and China.
China, Taiwan and four Southeast Asian nations have been wrangling for years over territorial claims to the South China Sea. Then, amid heightening tensions in the waters, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rallied with Southeast Asian nations to speak out against China. She bluntly said in Hanoi that the United States had a “national interest” in the area, and that China and other countries should abide by a 2002 agreement guaranteeing a resolution of the sovereignty disputes by “peaceful means.”
The common denominator in all of the South China Sea’s existing disputes is China. Beijing serves as the primary catalyst for tension and crisis in these disputes. Its declaration of a nine-dash line claim of sovereignty that covers almost the entire Sea is stunning in its ambition and audaciousness.
As China’s economy has grown more prosperous and powerful, its calculations have changed. The growth of its economy has far outpaced indigenous development of natural resources, and China’s economy has grown ever more hungry for new sources of food and energy—a hunger that the South China Sea can potentially help to address. At the same time, China’s economic, political, and military power has grown exponentially and now towers above the other claimants. Their economies are fundamentally tied to China, which leaves them vulnerable to economic coercion from Beijing, while their political influence and military power now pale in comparison to China’s.
While aggressively staking out 75 percent of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory, Beijing has said it will only negotiate with countries individually.  It’s a position that gives China obvious advantages in dealings with smaller nations. The issues involved are too complex, and the power imbalance between China and its individual neighbors is too great.  For that reason, China holds all the cards.
“The problem is that both sides are nearing red lines that have been drawn, so the margin for error is narrowing,” said David Arase, Professor of Politics at Pomona College and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center at Nanjing University.
War is unlikely, more jockeying is likely in the future. Completion of the leadership transition in China has reduced the likelihood of flareups.
A minor military clash in the South China Sea is, rather worryingly, a distinct and growing possibility. Caused by miscalculation, misperception or miscommunication, it’s just a question of time before one these skirmishes results in loss of life. It is in no country’s interests to spill blood or treasure over this issue – the costs far outweigh the benefits.
When China and Vietnam last went to war, both suffered a bloody nose although it was Beijing which fired the first salvo and wanted to teach Hanoi a “lesson.”

Thirty-five years later, as deadly anti-China riots wreak havoc across Vietnam and push Sino-Vietnamese relations to their lowest levels since the 1979 war, some are asking whether the two Communist neighbors will trade blows again. And if they do, who will prevail? China's armed forces are larger and better equipped than Vietnam's, so if a conflict does break out China will ultimately prevail. However, over the past few years, Vietnam has acquired advanced air and naval assets which, if push came to shove, could give China a bloody nose.
National territory is sacred. Vietnam vehemently denounces acts of infringement and will resolutely protect our national sovereignty and legitimate interests in conformity with the international law.”
While the world's eyes are on Russia, its ally China continues to clash with neighbouring countries over competing claims to the oil-rich South China Sea. Will there be war?
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All comments [ 10 ]


Huy Quốc 28/9/14 09:19

An examination of how countries see these issues and how they have behaved in the past provides a window for how they are likely to act in the future.

Hoàng Lân 28/9/14 09:21

China's declaration of a nine-dash line claim of sovereignty that covers almost the entire Sea is stunning in its ambition and audaciousness.

Lê Tín 28/9/14 09:24

Vietnam should be always ready for war.

Phạm Hiếu 28/9/14 09:26

The growth of its economy has far outpaced indigenous development of natural resources, and China’s economy has grown ever more hungry for new sources of food and energy—a hunger that the South China Sea can potentially help to address.

Quân Hoàng 28/9/14 09:28

Many of China’s elites believe China should act more assertively in the pursuit of its interests in the South China Sea. So aggressive!

Quốc Cường 28/9/14 09:46

Southeast Asia is already deep into the post-Cold War phase of history.

Vân Nhàn 28/9/14 09:50

Finding a quick resolution satisfactory to all the competing interests in the South China Sea is gathering increasing importance.

Huy Lâm 28/9/14 09:52

A war is in no one else's interests.

Hùng Quân 28/9/14 09:54

Sparking a war, China will lose more than gain, even win these wars.

Quốc Kiên 28/9/14 09:56

The problem is that both sides are nearing red lines that have been drawn, so the margin for error is narrowing.

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