Building a case
Just wait. The struggle over the Spratleys will develop and eventually rival the intractable problem of a Jewish-Palestinian state.
What makes the islands valuable is the vast energy deposits lying around the islands.
China would like those energy deposits but the Spratley islands are also important to it strategically. The Spratleys make for an excellent forward base for their ambition.
Why mankind fights
I once read a fascinating book that analyzed why mankind fights. Through all of mankind’s histories, we have fought each other. What were the fights about? Land, passion, ambitions?
All of the above, but the majority of wars, from the most ancient to today, were armed struggles to own or control limited resources. Man has always tried to out-compete his fellow man for finite resources. He who wins gets more area in land or sea–and the more the area the bigger the population.
China’s intention is simple to figure out. They want to own the South China Sea.
Why it’s called the South China Sea
This sea was named by Western cartographers. Where possible, cartographers use local terms to name places. However, they did not find a common name for this body of water.
Only several scattered tribes have explored the entire body of water. Few were aware of its size and reach. Surely the first group that learned this were traders and they were Chinese. Soon after, their warriors followed their trade since their trade needed to be guarded.
The mainland Chinese called it one thing, the island natives another. So cartographers used one of their tools. They named this body of water using landmarks.
The South China Sea is a large body of water with an area large enough to be called a sea. This body of water lies south of China. That’s why it’s called the South China Sea.
How the Chinese view this body of water
This is how China views the South China Sea.
It’s ours, say the Chinese. It’s plain to see that the maritime border that China wants to enforce extends almost to everybody else’s coastline.
Filipino fishermen use the word laot <la-ot> to refer to the deepest part of their fishing range. If Filipinos were to believe the crap coming from the Chinese, then our fishermen–who already have small fishing ranges–will be prevented from ever increasing their ranges.
This is a struggle over a limited resource. China has decided that as part of its transformation into a superpower, it shall claim to all of it. It’s the right time. They’ve done their feng shui.
The Chinese will be formidable. For one thing, they’re coordinated. These frame grabs were taken from a recent video produced by an American think-tank.
Skirmishes are increasing. Rhetoric is rising.
The intellectual explanation from their brain talent (below) is followed
by their enforcer. This is the tough side of China.
From China’s point of view, they can’t claim what they claim unless they also occupy the two island archipelagos.
It’s east of the Spratleys (also spelled Spratlys). It’s almost 300 kilometers (170 miles) from Puerto Princesa City. A Cagayancillo man I met works for a schoolroom contractor. The contractor won the job of constructing the schoolhouse(s) for the municipality. It took their lantsa (a motor launch, a fast banca made for passage) four days to get there. The Cagayancillo spent several days there working on his boss’s project. At night, they heard artillery fire.
Those were the Chinese.
A plan is brewing
I’m going to try to meet the mayor of Kalayaan. He’s here until the first week of July I heard.
Kalayaan <ka-la-ya-an> means the state of freedom. Kalayaan is the name of the municipality that was created out of the largest island available to the Philippines. From what I understand, the entire municipality consists of 80 individuals!
How many households is that? Assuming a household size of 5, that’s only 16 households.
They also form one barangay, Pagasa <pag-a-sa, translates to hope).
I’m thinking of visiting it. While one still can. These islands will be seized by China one day.
Kalayaan is currently occupied by Filipinos–mostly Palawenos–who are there because they accepted the government’s offer of subsidies (large income transfers). The government helped them to relocate. It is ensuring their survival by sending a Navy ship at regular intervals to re-provision the island. In addition to the supplies, they’re also handed money–cold cash. But there is no market in Kalayaan. That’s what the woman–one of three Kalayaan residents I met–told me. There are a few sari-sari stores.
My God! This is a living experiment in types of economic systems!
How does a population whose subsistence is guaranteed go about fulfilling their other needs?
Being an island economy means that the study won’t be tainted.
If I need a haircut and my neighbor has got a talent with scissors, and he decides to charge me for it, how will he decide how much to charge? Also, are there enough people in that barangay to create and sustain a market?
The Philippines is not involved in the Paracels dispute. The Philippines is locked in dispute with China over the Spratleys, not the Paracels. In the Paracels, China’s bumping heads with the Vietnamese. China is fighting five other nations for possession of the sea.
Excellent Overview of China’s ambitions produced by the Economist magazine