Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012



Here's an important news item you might have missed.  Tempers flared in the South China Sea last week when the USS George Washington sailed into the hotly disputed waters.  You're likely asking yourself: Why is the US Navy sending a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the Far East?  According to a Pentagon spokesman, the Navy is merely conducting "joint military actions with a regional ally" and there is no cause for alarm.  It just feels alarming when the USA calls Communist Vietnam an ally.  But... hey...that's just another example of how strange world politics have become in the South China Sea. 

Unfamiliar with the South China Sea?  You shouldn't be!  Economically, it is the most important body of water in the world.  Over one third of the earth's total commerce floats on its busy shipping lines.  (Sorry...Persian Gulf...you need to diversify!)   Let's check out the stats: Every day, ten million barrels of crude oil enter the South China Sea through the Straits of Malacca.  Every day, eleven million i-Pods are shipped down the Pearl River.  So it comes as no surprise, that every nation that borders on the South China Sea has a major economic interest in controlling the important body of water.

The odd part about the enormous, 1.5 million-square-mile Sea, is its lack of islands.   Aside from Taiwan and Hainan there are only a few, tiny island chains.  How tiny?  The largest of the Sparatly Islands (an island chain in the sea) is less than a mile long, with a highest point of ten feet.  This means at high tide, half of the isle's land mass disappears!  None of  which matters to any of the six nations claiming them as sovereign territory. The Sparatly Islands are so important (geo-politically) that sixty-four Vietnamese soldiers died defending it from Chinese troops in 1988.  NOTE: China still controls them today.

Another reason why the South China Sea is so important is the potential, untapped oil and gas reserves lying under the surface waters.  In this part of the world, environmental groups aren't listened to...so massive plans are already underway to cover the sea with massive oil rigs...as soon as tomorrow.  Everyone knows that China is thirsty for gasoline, so it comes as no surprise that the PRC has the most audacious claims of the six-nation dispute.  They are demanding some 80% of the sea.  This claim is in obvious violation of International Maritime laws...which apparently don't translate well into Cantonese!

Back to the USS Washington.  Although married economically, China and the USA still jostle and joust over global superiority and sometimes this involves bizarre behavior with meaningless desert isles, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and sharply worded statements.  At least there is one bright light in the heated dispute.  While tensions continue to mount...there is one thing all six nations in the dispute can agree upon: JAPAN has absolutely, positively, without doubt, no say in anything in the South China Sea...so don't even ask! 

1 comment:

  1. "This claim is in obvious violation of International Maritime laws...which apparently don't translate well into Cantonese!"

    Cantonese?! Why is Dunersblog picking on Hong Kong? Or do you'all think the good folks in Shenzhen and Guangzhou have something to do with this sea-grab? Forget it! Its the Mandarin and you know it, buddy!