Tensions in the South China Sea are accelerating as both China and the United States are rattling each other sabres. The area is hotly contested between China and US proxy states. These allies of the US are staking their claim in the area on their behalf. In the area between Vietnam, China, Philippines, Korea, and others – there’s plenty of untapped oil reserves and hydrocarbon deposits. A Chinese survey estimates an amount of 215 billion barrels of oil, while a US Geological Survey makes a much more conservative measurement of 80 billion.[i] China estimates that there are around 266 trillion cubic feet of natural gas hydrocarbon under the sea.[ii]
Like almost all natural resources they’re first-come-first-serve. Whoever plants their drilling equipment in the region first are the ones who are going to make the profits. These profits and fuel are vital to the global economy. Stock prices for energy companies are in a kind of limbo as they eagerly await the outcome of this power of wills. This alone is enough to engender the hostilities we see in the area as the two super powers jockey for a dominant position. The militaries of both countries are readying themselves preparing for a confrontation over the resources.
China has ramped up sea patrols in the area to assert their dominance over their own waters. Already there have been incidents over contested island where Chinese military forces have forced ships from other Asian countries in the area to vacate their plans. This has drawn great criticism from the countries in the region. The US has begun sending more ships into the area to bolster their presence. They’ve dispatched an aircraft carrier whose only real purpose is to carry out bombing runs. The military buildup on both sides is increasing, and the threat of violent confrontation is increasing with it.
There is a great contest going on over whom the region belongs to. This is a battle over resources that are being masqueraded as nationalism. Each country in the region is pounding the drum of patriotism merely for the purpose of making money, China included. Ownership is still under contest even with China having a ruling against them in favour of the Philippines over the Reed Bank.[iii] Who owns what is still being hotly contested.
In this author’s view the islands largely belong to China, after all, it is the South CHINA Sea. Most of the resource exploration rights do belong to them. However, it would certainly be unfair to exclude the countries in the region that are also connected to that same sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, maybe even North and South Korea should be given a share. I would recommend that China plays nice in the region and not try to scoop up the totality of the resources. No one has an interest in another world war. Everyone wants a nice stable global situation to aid in development and profit-making. China could do much for this kind of peace by sharing some of that potential wealth in the interest of peaceful relations.
By that same token, the US should remove its military forces. The US has no right to interfere in the region. They have no right to claim any of the land or resources under contest. The US claims that they’re just coming to the assistance of their allies in the region. However, a cursory glance at their relations with these countries shows otherwise. These are client states, ones that are dominated by US imperialism. These countries are under the control of the US Empire, and as such are subject to carrying out their interests. These countries are exploited by the US for profits. The super-exploitation of imperialism sees to it, and this would apply perfectly well to their Asian allies. The US is not assisting their allies, they’re using them as proxies to lay claim to resources in the region. The US should immediately remove their forces from the South China Sea and allow negotiations between the Asian countries.
As further evidence of the dishonorable intentions of the US, they’ve accelerated their installment of their Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea. The stated purpose of the system is to defend against missiles being fired from hostile forces. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that those hostile forces are China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In the more immediate, the system is intended to counter the increasing sophistication of the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program and missile technology. The DPRK has every right to build a deterrent against invasion by the US.
THAAD is being used as a bargaining chip against the DPRK. The US has said that they’re willing to remove the anti-missile system from Korea if China can convince the DPRK to abandon its nuclear weapons program. What the US is doing here is essentially trying to coerce China into bullying the DPRK into submission on the nuclear issue. China has already taken steps along this line by banning the importation of DPRK coal.[iv] The real question here is whether or not China is willing to carry out US interests in the region by trying to force the DPRK to abandon its nuclear deterrence.
Such a tactic is very unlikely to work in this author’s view. The DPRK has always been willing to take whatever steps necessary to assert their sovereignty and their right to self-defense. The DPRK will suffer whatever horrors are necessary to keep themselves free of US occupation.
When taken as a whole we can see that the real problem here is capitalism. Various interests are competing to control the resources of the South China Sea. Whoever captures them are the ones who are going to collect the profits. A series of state and private capital interests are behind the Chinese drive in the region, while many private interests are behind the US drive for it. Capitalist enterprises, including the Chinese state oil company, are willing to produce great hostilities in order to obtain those profits. In a socialist world, no such incident would be taking place. Resources would be extracted and distributed to people according to their need. Such hostilities, fighting over resources would be completely unnecessary. If there is to be a world free from dangerous global politics, a global socialist revolution will be necessary.