Tensions are high between Washington and Beijing this week as the International Court of Arbitration makes it ruling over China’s actions in the South China Sea.
The region, a major shipping route in the region, is largely claimed by China despite it lying within the territories of five nations. These include the Philippines, a long-time ally of the United States, which initially brought the case to the international court. But while the ruling is likely to go in the Philippines’ favour, it is also likely to be more symbolic than definitive.
China refuses to acknowledge the court’s jurisdiction over the matter, and save for the widespread condemnation from around the world that probably won’t happen, nothing will stop it from continuing to patrol the waters and build artificial islands. This is because the government believes, and perhaps rightly so, that no one is actually willing to challenge the “authority” of the most powerful country in the region, if not the world.
And that’s where the United States comes in, desperate to maintain its role as the world’s authority. Like China, it has increased its militarization of the region to the largest in twenty years. It appears that both sides are preparing for conflict, and whether it’s all just for show remains to be seen. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Li contacted his American counterpart John Kerry this week to reiterate China’s position, saying that the United States should remain neutral in the dispute and allow China to protect its sovereignty.
But there lies the problem; if the US obeys that order, it would essentially be admitting that China is the stronger player, just as the Chinese would be admitting the opposite if they backed away.
Which makes the presence of all those military forces very, very worrisome.