China’s Victory In The South China Sea By occupying various islands, China extended its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone

WASHINGTON – China’s “peaceful rise” recently took a new, openly aggressive turn. Without any hesitation, China now claims sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, an unbelievably preposterous claim. And the basis for this? Very simple.

Claims over the entire South China Sea

China claims that a number of mostly uninhabited South China Sea islands, including the Paracels, the Scarborough Shoals and the Spratlys, have always been under Chinese sovereignty. For this reason –this being Chinese territory– China conveniently maintains that its territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones, (up to 200 nautical miles from the shores of all these islands), extend to practically the entire South China Sea, almost touching the shores of Vietnam, Malaysia (Borneo) and the Philippines.

And, mind you, this is not just a clever opening bid, a way to increase bargaining power prior to entering diplomatic negotiations aimed at settling the issue with the other countries (including the Philippines and Vietnam) that also have claims on these rocks.

No, Beijing’s position is final and non-negotiable. So much so that China has been busy constructing military facilities on these rocks. Yes, runways, landing strips, missile launchers, and more. This construction alacrity with a strong military bend can only have one meaning: “This is our territory and Exclusive Economic Zone. All foreigners better stay out”.

This is our region

Again, so much for “peaceful rise”.

That said, is China getting into any dangerous political trouble with its neighbors by being so overtly aggressive? Not really. Sure enough, this brazen occupation of the islands and the consequent claim of extended territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones did not go down well in Hanoi or Manila.

But the point here is that China does not want to be loved by its neighbors. It wants to be feared. The smaller and weaker Asian neighbors at the moment do not have many choices regarding alternative trade and economic relations. China is by far the most important economy in Asia. Smaller countries need to sell there. And they will continue to do so, no matter what China does in the South China Sea.

America will do nothing

And what about America, supposedly the defender of peace and stability in the Pacific Region?

Well, mark my words, America will do nothing to reverse this. And this will show the world that the whole “re-balancing” or pivot to Asia announced a few years ago by the Obama administration was just empty blah, blah. America does not have the military resources or the political will to get into an open confrontation with China on a territorial issue in a region so close to China’s mainland. It just does not.

Sure enough, Washington will make some noises. It will send some ships close enough to the islands to stress “freedom of navigation”. It will declare that this is not the way to resolve a complicated territorial dispute. It will invite all parties to sit down and negotiate a fair solution, and other such innocuous nonsense.

But America will not send the US Marines to “liberate” the rocks in the South China Sea. And so China will continue to build them up, this way making its preposterous claim truly irreversible.

No challenge from Washington

And this is the message from Beijing. China is the undisputed ruler in its neighborhood. Once upon a time the US, thanks to its overwhelming naval power, could determine outcomes in the Pacific Region. Now it cannot do so anymore.

And, if it tried, the odds of prevailing are very low. China’s military build up may not yet be a match for America on a global scale. But it is large enough to deter America from undertaking anything significant in China’s backyard. With minimal exertion, China just extended its sphere of influence in Asia.

End of story.

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