"..a bardy view!"

Sino-Philippine Relations – not war war, more jaw jaw.

SpratlyChina has recently reported that they are not preparing to go to war with the Philippines over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

I never thought I would write those words, although the situation in the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal has been festering dangerously over the last three years. (See Bardiness 10/03/09 – A Spratly Spat).

China claims sovereignty over the South China Sea (aka West Philippines Sea) and no doubt the mass of oil and gas reserves purported to exist in the area plays much significance.

As China grows, so does her demands, and few people today are ignorant of Chinese expansion around the world in search of resources.

Chinese state media have been fuelling the spat in the Spratly's, which in turn has garnered nationalist protest against the Philippines, with even some military chiefs suggesting an attack on Philippines' shipping "to teach the upstarts a lesson."

This in turn has fuelled protests outside the Chinese Embassy in Manila, for indeed Filipinos are fairly cheesed off at what they regard as bullying tactics from their big neighbour.

The Chinese have halted package tours to the Philippines, and many resorts are seeing a significant drop in Chinese visitors. I never knew the Chinese were beach lovers or sun worshippers, but then again, nothing these days surprises me after having read about the crushed baby bone pills.

Meanwhile outside the regional press, the rest of the world has little knowledge of what's going on. One would have assumed that a Chinese denial of military intervention (for anything) would cause a furore, but not so.

Australia has been huffing and puffing, agreeing with the Philippines that the issue should be resolved through international law, and whilst they are not taking sides, what happens in their area is a matter of concern. After all, these are major shipping routes, and a dominant China with control over those waters is not a comfortable prospect.

China of course is concerned that the USA have shifted their global areas of influence to South-East Asia and the South Pacific, and have seen an increase of a US presence in the area. They regard Philippine aggression towards their fishing and research vessels as provocation, and consider their uncommon bravado a result of having the US to watch over them. There's a lot to be said in that regard, and they may have a point. Yet, were the US not to have such a presence in the region, would the Chinese be not more aggressive themselves?

There's no question that the US have shifted their political and military strategy to concentrate their sphere of influence in what is becoming an ever increasing volatile region. They, like many nations, know they have to deal with an ever powerful China, and Sino-Western relationships border on a precarious cliff of diplomacy. This is significant, because any UN Security Council resolutions are dependent on the agreement of two key members – Russia and China.

The shoal is 100 miles from the Philippines and 500 miles from China. Both (along with other countries in the area) lay a claim. The Chinese cite the UK Channel Islands as an example that it doesn't matter about vicinity, by stating that Jersey is much closer to France than England.

Argentina must be watching this argument closely, because Britain has the Falkland Islands, and they are much closer to Argentina. Indeed, if China successfully claimed the Spratly's with that premise, then it would effectively scupper Argentinian claims to the Falklands by international precedent. That would settle the matter, but it wouldn't please the Philippines, and it's unlikely that the US and Australia would be too happy either.

What complicated times we live in!


May 13, 2012 - Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Politics, The Philippines | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Very interesting and thought provoking as usual. The thing about the Chinese is that they have been playing the long term game and have had the patience to outsmart everyone. By this I mean Western powers who fell prey to Liberal ideas fell right into their hands. I have lived through this. My one ardent hope is, that as Chinese people see more and more the affect of Capitalism in their enhanced lifestyle, then hopefully they won’t be such prey to communist ideals? Hope springs eternal, even in my breast.


    Comment by Spook Moor | May 14, 2012 | Reply

  2. Thanks for your comment Spook. You are right about the long game, or as the British always called it “the long view”. The long view requires enhanced diplomatic skills which the Chinese have yet to master.


    Comment by Bar De Ness | May 15, 2012 | Reply

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