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Thread: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

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    Default The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    The epic poet should always start in medias res.This isn’t epic poetry but I’ll start there anyway with this item from the tolerably obscure “Esquire Philippines”:

    https://www.esquiremag.ph/long-reads...-20210430-lfrm

    What has stiffened the spine of President Roderigo Roa Duterte and caused him to say “boo” to the goose, five years after his Government chose to ignore the ruling of the International Court of Justice at the Hague in favour of the Philippines obtained by its predecessor?

    Two things - restiveness on the part of the officer corps of the Philippines Armed Forces, who as a body tend to take the side of the nation that has trained and supplied them for decades, and the resolve of the Biden administration.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    It seems the US, and the rest of us satrapies, will again be put in the situation of supporting a murderous thug for strategic reasons.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    I doubt China wants territory in the SCS in the long run. For one thing it is indefensible in case of general war. I imagine the plan is to use those reefs as bargaining chips in a grand settlement after they invade Taiwan.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Here’s my theory of how those reefs came to loom large.

    As everyone knows, during the reign of the Yongle Emperor of Ming, the celebrated eunuch Admiral Zheng He commanded a series of voyages with a fleet of large junks, which certainly got as far as present day Somalia.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zheng_He

    As is slightly less well known the Ming court was divided between the eunuch faction and the Confucian mandarin faction. The eunuchs of course controlled the Emperor’s sex life whilst the bureaucracy controlled the taxes.

    After the death at sea of Zheng He there was a palace coup by the mandarin faction who had been horrified by the non-Confucian ideas of actually leaving China and, worse, spending a great deal of money.

    The triumphant mandarins passed a law banning, on pain of death, any Chinese person from owning a vessel with more than two masts or going more than three li from China.

    This did not suit the merchants of Guangdong province who had been in the habit of trading with Southeast Asia for centuries, and who were not about to stop... “Heaven is high, and the Emperor is far away” is a Cantonese expression...)
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    The answer was to observe that the Emperor had not stated where China started and stopped, and to draw maps showing that China stopped three li short of any other land.

    Hence that line running three li outside the coasts of all other lands bordering the South China Sea.

    Everyone now happy; junk trade with Luzon, the Visayas, Mindanao, Borneo and Vietnam résumes, in due course the Spanish occupy the Philippines with the sole purpose of trading with China and vast amounts of Mexican silver are carried from the mines of Potosi to Manila where they are traded for silks, porcelains and other luxuries which are shipped back and carried overland to the Atlantic and thence to Spain.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    In the 1880s the French colonial government in Vietnam occupies one of the reefs and the Dowager Empress asks her Collector of Maritime Customs, Sir Robert Hart, where it is. Not strong evidence of owning it!

    Zheng He was forgotten until 1905 when a nationalist scholar discovered him and published a biography.

    In the early 1940s the Roosevelt administration decides to repeal the Unequal Treaties and sets up meetings with the Kuomintang government in Chongqing to agree the terms. This puts the onus on the Chinese government to decide on what it wants back. There is a good deal of poking around in archives and up pops the chart with the eleven dash line. This along with the return of Hong Kong is demanded.

    Final agreement is delayed whilst the Late Unpleasantness With Japan is dealt with, and then to everyone’s surprise China is taken over by Mao Zhedong’s version of the Communist Party.

    Mao’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister is Zhou Enlai. Zhou inherits the claim to the eleven dash line, looks at it, re-draws it with nine dashes, and, aware that the People’s Republic has no means of asserting the claim, puts it back in the file.

    Time passes. Zhou dies in office, and in death becomes the greatest statesman China has seen in centuries (probably true). Mao was “70% right” but Zhou was 100% right.

    In modern China, criticism of the Communist Party is unacceptable except that people can always criticise the Party for not being patriotic enough.

    The map is dug out again. “What is being done to secure Zhou’s Nine Dash Line?”
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 05-03-2021 at 07:43 AM.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Good stuff.

    In some ways similar to Japan’s intermittent and nuanced opening and closing around the same time.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Ross View Post

    In some ways similar to Japan’s intermittent and nuanced opening and closing around the same time.
    A very good point. We might make the set by recalling that Korea was called “The Hermit Kingdom” for a reason.

    All three more-or-less-Confucian nations had and perhaps have a culture that is more or less coterminous with their nation state. All three have had very great difficulty in dealing with other cultures. Of the three, the one that shut itself away most firmly was perhaps Korea, and now we see two Koreas; one is as hermit like as ever and the other is Asia’s finest example of “culture as soft power”.
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 05-03-2021 at 08:24 AM.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    So, Andrew, what should be the long term Western response? What are Europe’s and America’s legitimate interests in the SCS?

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Will

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Ross View Post
    So, Andrew, what should be the long term Western response? What are Europe’s and America’s legitimate interests in the SCS?
    The Chinese assertion of sovereignty over the sea conflicts totally with the European doctrine of mare liberum as first set out by Hugo Grotius in the 17th century and as now embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mare_Liberum

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United...Law_of_the_Sea

    I think we must support the Philippines’ position.

    But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippines_v._China
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 05-03-2021 at 09:00 AM.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    The triumphant mandarins passed a law banning, on pain of death, any Chinese person from owning a vessel with more than two masts or going more than three li from China.

    This did not suit the merchants of Guangdong province who had been in the habit of trading with Southeast Asia for centuries, and who were not about to stop... “Heaven is high, and the Emperor is far away” is a Cantonese expression...)
    God bless and keep the czar... Far away from us!

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    I knew I quit using Viber for a reason....It looks like the Philippines' generals got a different message about US foreign policy than we have been getting here in the USA from the administration. I myself thought that when the seas calm for Taiwan, they will start experiencing a Hong Kong like tightening of mainland asserted authority which the Biden/Harris administration would not respond to. It looks like Philippines generals were communicated something else by the US military and the continuation of the "pivot toward China" started under the Obama administration. I bet a lot of the informal Viber chatter was comparing communications and reassurances different officers had received from US military leaders.

    If you step back and look at it. There are a lot of signs that White House foreign policy in the Mideast, Crimea, Somalia, and even the Nordic countries facing Russia is currently not the same as the US Military "policy".That does not happen often in US History.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    I thought that the transactional approach to foreign policy taken by the White House under the previous administration was the odd one out. I think that US foreign policy is now back on track, operating under its internationally well known, long term, objectives.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    I look at the map and I just can't see the strategic value of those reefs to China. The SCS leads nowhere that can't be choked off easily through narrow straits. In the event of war those reefs can be destroyed easily and without collateral damage (except to the corals and fish, but no one gives a sh!t about those).

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    I don’t think those reefs have ever had any value to anyone. For centuries the Emperors could not be bothered with Taiwan either.

    In both cases we are seeing Chinese foreign policy set by purely domestic considerations. I cannot sufficiently emphasise the prevalence of extreme xenophobic nationalism in modern China. The Party is always vulnerable to accusations of “not doing enough” to assert Chinese primacy in everything.

    Although China has a very professional Foreign Ministry, it’s ability to set its own objectives is severely compromised by political considerations which don’t occur in many other Government departments. The Ministry of Railways, for example, just gets on with building and running railways. Foreign affairs are always of great interest to the public and are much discussed, usually on the basis that China is still recovering from the “century of humiliations” and is bound to rule the planet as it usually did.

    Don’t pay any attention to Chinese apologists who tell you that “China has never waged aggressive war”. China invaded Vietnam in 1979 - and was bloodily defeated. China has methodically consolidated its position in the lands conquered by the Qianloong Emperor in the 18th Century including Tibet and Xinjiang - the name “Xinjiang” means ... er ... “The New Lands”. which suggests that they were once ... not part of China!

    The Chinese name for China is indeed “Zhong Guo” - literally the Middle or rather the Central Kingdom - the centre of the universe, the land to which all lesser breeds are subject and to which they pay tribute. There is no concept of other nations being somehow equal.
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 05-03-2021 at 03:00 PM.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    In both cases we are seeing Chinese foreign policy set by purely domestic considerations. I cannot sufficiently emphasise the prevalence of extreme xenophobic nationalism in modern China. The Party is always vulnerable to accusations of “not doing enough” to assert Chinese primacy in everything.
    Yeah, you need to go slow and explain carefully, because we don't have that over here.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    For centuries the Emperors could not be bothered with Taiwan either.
    But then it was industrialized by the Japanese, became a rebel base, and then built a semiconductor industry. I would say they want it now.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    Yeah, you need to go slow and explain carefully, because we don't have that over here.
    The similarities are striking. “Manifest Destiny” requires China to re-assert Chinese rule over all the lands that once paid tribute to the Emperor. Since trading relations between Han China and the Roman Empire (which flourished) were seen in China as tribute from outer barbarians, that is a lot of places - and there are those who claim, on very scanty evidence, that Zheng He got to North America. The purpose behind his voyages was not exploration, but the collection of tribute from suitably overawed savages.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by George. View Post
    But then it was industrialized by the Japanese, became a rebel base, and then built a semiconductor industry. I would say they want it now.
    Far worse, it’s a fully functional representative democracy under the rule of law, demonstrating with every day that passes that Chinese people do very well in such a system!
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Of course, the concept of “mare liberum” is not necessarily right. It’s just an idea imposed on the rest of the planet by those tiresome imperialist slave trading Northwest Europeans. The idea that everywhere is subject to China is surely just as good...
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    ... and of course not everyone in China or who is Chinese outside China thinks this way. It’s really about as popular with the sort of people in China who would be Trump voters if they were Americans as voting for Trump is in America.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    ... and of course not everyone in China or who is Chinese outside China thinks this way. It’s really about as popular with the sort of people in China who would be Trump voters if they were Americans as voting for Trump is in America.
    Exactly why it resonates so clearly! And, of course now that Freedom of Speech is no longer absolute here in the USA. I cannot say anything critical about China's current leadership.
    Last edited by Landrith; 05-03-2021 at 11:54 PM.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by George. View Post
    But then it was industrialized by the Japanese, became a rebel base, and then built a semiconductor industry. I would say they want it now.
    Taiwan´s semiconductor/electronics manufacturing effort must have attained glorious heights, judging by the (HK) Chinese bloke running it in the mid 90´s, catching my attention in a 3-page advertisement in The Eonomist (late 1996) wooing Western outfits to manufacture their VLSI goods on the island.

    At university with me in the UK, one of the 4 (four) foreign students in our class, went unmatched in his sheer dint for hardwork.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by George. View Post
    But then it was industrialized by the Japanese, became a rebel base, and then built a semiconductor industry. I would say they want it now.
    They didn’t particularly give a damn about global service industry Hong Kong, did they?

    Strategically Taiwan is their key to the first island chain.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Its the bicycles. Between mainland carbon frames and Taiwan hardware, China will control man's basic transportation for the next thousand years....
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    Of course, the concept of “mare liberum” is not necessarily right. It’s just an idea imposed on the rest of the planet by those tiresome imperialist slave trading Northwest Europeans. The idea that everywhere is subject to China is surely just as good...
    And a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse.

    Communists obsessed with property rights over the commons. Go figure.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    It's certainly a colorful dispute...

    https://edition.cnn.com/2021/05/03/a...hnk/index.html

    "China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see... O...GET THE F**K OUT,"

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    I rather like Teddy Locsin. Not sure he ought to be associating himself with Duterte but he’ll probably say he’s at least keeping the the DFA in safe hands.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Is it just me, or has this thread introduced an undercurrent of global awareness and reasonable discussion that seems almost inappropriate for the Bilge?

    (Actually, it's a very welcome vibe as far as I'm concerned--thanks for posting!)

    Not much to add, but China and its ambitions in the South China Sea seem like a major issue for our times. I do worry things may well escalate. And I also worry that things may not escalate, and that China will be allowed to keep expanding its influence. Is it just my implicit bias to think that may not be good for the world? On the other hand, the U.S. influence hasn't exactly been overwhelmingly good for the world either.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Here is a proposal: a grand bargain where China gets Taiwan in a Hong-Kong style treaty, but backed by a total trade embargo by the West, India, and other allies if they violate it. They renounce the reefs in the SCS and the islands disputed with Japan. They close the Uighur re-education camps and keep Kim on a short chain. In return they get to make China whole again while still trading with the West.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Just two things wrong:

    1. Much the more important: the twenty million citizens of Taiwan won’t want it.

    2. Hong Kong isn’t very happy, and everyone is still trading.

    Back in the 1980s I used to suggest that Britain offer China the Isle of Wight in exchange for Hong Kong. This idea had the same problem as 1. above.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    A few things strike me about this situation

    1) Some people in China are looking to 17th century China as a model to be emulated and perhaps re-imposed on the 21st century world
    2) Democracy is not a threat to China, but it is a potentially mortal threat to the communist party as it is currently organized
    3) The 9 dashed line territory is not as (financially) valuable as what China is currently spending to take it over

    Three is important, because the 20th century has another Asian power that was determined to spend a lot of treasure to take control of territory that was not theirs to begin with, and was a resource drain that grew larger as they took more of it.

    Andrew thanks for opening this discussion up, and George I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree with you, but greatly value your non-US perspective on these things.
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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Hunter View Post
    the 20th century has another Asian power that was determined to spend a lot of treasure to take control of territory that was not theirs to begin with, and was a resource drain that grew larger as they took more of it.
    But there was a logic behind Japanese imperialism. What they really wanted was China, which if successful would gain them plenty of resources. They got in trouble when they were cut off from oil and decided to go get it themselves. Then they needed a defense perimeter for their oil supply routes, and ended up taking a bunch of stuff that was a resource drain. However, the plan was always to give it back in a settlement.

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    Default Re: The South China Sea. A bilge rat thread.

    The crowning irony of WW2 was that the Japanese Army were standing on all the oil they could ever have wanted.

    The Da Qing oilfield, in Manchuria. It was actually in Manchukuo, the bit of China that they already had.

    It was discovered in 1960 - ten years after Mao’s victory in the Chinese Civil War, and China was a net exporter of oil from then until 1996.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daqing_Oil_Field
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