The South China Sea Dispute Between China And America
The nation of China is a great power working to become a superpower. China is the world’s second-largest economy and the second most significant military spender. However, some statistics put the Chinese economy at number one and America second. Nations fear that the Chinese growing economic and military strength will eventually lead to their conquering of other countries. Their fear might be validated because the Chinese have annexed the South China Sea, which is 1.4 million miles long and is connected to the Pacific Ocean. The South China Sea has become a contentious issue on the global stage. The Chinese government has decided to seize the South China Sea for economic gain, strategic military positioning, counter strategy to the Asian strategy by the United States, and the future of Chinese-American relations.
The South China Sea also named the “Cow’s Tongue,” consists of fisheries and natural resources. Oil and natural gas are one of the critical reasons nations are fighting with China. The nations in the region are Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Brunei, which are competing for these natural resources too. Natural gas in the region consists of nine-hundred trillion cubic feet, and oil resources in the region are around 294,000,000,000 gallons. This future energy will help build the Chinese economy, and provide energy security in the decades to come. This economic security will lead to China to grow their military presence in the South China Sea.
The military logic behind the annexation of the South China Sea by China is the nine-dash line based on historical grounds that it is Chinese territory. The nine-dash line goes back to the fiftieth century, which China has always conducted naval security and fishing in the South China Sea. As China becomes active in the South China Sea, they will be able to control the trade routes and build military bases on reefs that ensure their hold on natural resources. China will have stronger control of the oil shipments passing through the South China Sea, which fifty percent of trade passes through every year. It is more sea traffic than the Panama and Suez canal. This is why China wants to control this strategic sea lane for more international supremacy. However, the Chinese increasing military presence is making nations in the region build up their armed forces. As a result, countries in the region are increasing their defense spending because of the increasing tensions. For example, the Filipino government has decided to invest one billion dollars in updating their military to counter Chinese military aggression. The Chinese military budget is around 180 billion dollars, but other statistics put the figure at 150 billion or 220 billion dollars. The true number of how much the Chinese are spending is unknown and might be a secret. This increasing influence by China in the South China Sea has made the United States increase its presence in the region.
Chinese military bases in the South China Sea are being constructed on reefs, which have become man-made artificial islands. These islands are being equipped with military technology such as radar, combat aircraft, communications, shelters, and missile systems for ship and air. These new military capabilities are alerting because the South Sea is not international waters anymore, but Chinese territory.
The American strategy under the Obama Administration was to pivot towards Asia. The strategy was designed to put more focus and resources to counter China. America is building better diplomatic and military ties to build alliances with Asian nations such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, and Malaysia to contain China. This is similar to a containment strategy during the cold war to stop communism; however, this containment strategy is to stop the spread of Chinese influence in Asia (Xu). One example of how America is countering China in the South China Sea is FONOPS or Freedom of Navigation Operations because America and the global community don’t recognize the nine-dash-line. The international community recognizes the South China Sea as international waters.
The South China Sea is a slow start for Chinese expansion in the region. However, some experts believe that China will not stop at the South China Sea but in the coming years invade Taiwan. Some reports show by 2020 there are plans to invade Taiwan by force. As a result, the South China Sea along with Taiwan will slowly create a buffer zone between the United States and China in Asia. The hope is China will slowly push back American influence in the region and replace it with the Asian superpower China. The invasion of Taiwan would not be a violation of international law because Taiwan is considered part of China under the One China Policy. However, it would create controversy globally. Taiwan and China have been fighting since the communist government of Mao came to power. Taiwan is a non-communist country, which was supported by the United States during the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. America still supplies military and economic aid to Taiwan, but if China can conquer Taiwan and remove American support and military equipment, this would be a significant success. Annexing the South China Sea and conquering Taiwan would slowly create that buffer zone.
In the end, the South China Sea will give China more control of economic wealth and military security. The control of the South China Sea will eventually lead to the invasion of Taiwan once the South China Sea is fully in Chinese hands. The United States will counter by building alliances to contain China. The hope is America will be able to contain China by providing aid and support, while China hopes to expand, but reducing the chances of military conflict between the two nations.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency.