Yes, the US-China developing South China Sea conflict which will place us in the frontline of hostilities merited a discussion last August 29 on CNN’s GPS which is hosted by Fareed Zakaria. The episode’s resource person was Robert D. Kaplan, Atlantic Monthly National Correspondent whose writings were published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs and The Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers and publications.
Per Wikipedia, Kaplan’s “more controversial essays about the nature of US power have spurred debate in academia, the media, and the highest levels of government. A frequent theme in his work is the reemergence of cultural and historical tensions temporarily suspended during the Cold War.”
Wikipedia also states that Kaplan “has been a consultant to the US Army’s Special Forces, the United States Marines, and the United States Air Force. He has lectured at military war colleges, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, major universities, the CIA, and business forums, and has appeared on PBS, NPR, C-Span, and Fox News.
GPS host Fareed Zakaria focused the discussion on a recent Kaplan article where he noted the observation of the great 20th century geostrategist, Halford Mackinder, that “while Russia would never be a true geographic world dominator, China would if it ever got its act together economically.” As we now know, Russia has ceased to be the major threat to US domination. China had accomplished an economic miracle that is now seen as the biggest threat to the US.
In outlining the China threat, Kaplan said: “Just look at the map. Here is Russia, north of the temperate zone, bumping up against Arctic ice. It has a long sea coast which is off the map, but it’s all ice-bound. But here is China, right in the temperate zone. Northern China is the same latitude as Maine. Southern is the same latitude as New Orleans. It occupies the same latitudes as the United States, so it’s blessed by climate and geography. Also, it reaches deep into Central Asia with all of its mineral wealth and strategic importance. And unlike Russia, it has a 9,000-kilometer sea coast, with a lot of good natural harbors in the temperate and subtropical zones.”
Kaplan added that the biggest news development in the past 10 years is the rise of China as a sea power because “it has the luxury to do so, and it has the luxury to do so because it settled most of its land borders.”
Furthermore, Kaplan said that if “China dominates East Asia, the marginal seas like the South China Sea and the East Sea, that makes it a great regional power. But once China has a presence in the Indian Ocean, it becomes a great power.” He noted that China needs the presence in the Indian Ocean in order to “protect its own shipments of energy and its commercial goods between the Middle East and Asia .”
Kaplan added: “The roadside bombers in Iraq showed us the low side of asymmetry. What China’s showing us now is the high end of asymmetry, far more subtle, not designed to get into a war with the United States, but to deny us access in the South China Sea. And the really hot area in the coming years and decades is going to be the South China Sea.”
Kaplan outlined the potential conflict area, saying: “It starts in Taiwan, in the north, and it comes down to Malaysia here. This whole area which gets a third of all world commercial sea traffic and a half of all the energy traffic destined for northeast Asia. You know, South Korea and Japan. Think of the South China Sea as the future Persian Gulf, because you have large deposits of energy here. Just recently, the Chinese declared the South China Sea a core interest, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed back saying that the US would help mediate disputes here.”
The Chinese reacted angrily to the US offer to mediate. Kaplan explained that: “The Chinese look at the South China Sea the way we looked at the Caribbean in the 19th and early 20th century. What makes America a great power ultimately? It’s our domination of the Western Hemisphere, which means our domination of the Caribbean. There was a time in our history when the Caribbean was contested by many European powers, and the US policy was it’s technically an international waterway, but, in fact, we will dominate it. And that’s how the Chinese see the South China Sea. In fact, Chinese officials have told me that. They made the comparison with the Caribbean, not me.”
Zakaria noted that: “As China expands, what it is bumping up against is the established dominant power in the region, which is the United States. We have bases in Japan, we have bases in the Philippines. We have relations with every country, military relations, in Singapore through Japan, of course. The CNN host further noted that China could see US relations with Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and India as some kind of encirclement.
Kaplan cited that the naming of the special envoys to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel “freed up the Secretary of State’s time to make more trips to East Asia.”
During the CNN show, Kaplan diagrammed the projected area of conflict in the South China Sea. Very noticeable, in a very strategic location of the conflict map is the Philippines. This strategic location will explain why the US is taking an extraordinary interest in the Mindanao peace process and was the promoter of the aborted MOA-BJE (Memorandum of Agreement-Bangsa-moro Juridical Entity) which included the southern tip of Palawan.
There is no doubt that our country will become a frontline in this US-China developing South China Sea conflict. What is disturbing is that this conflict merited a full discussion on CNN but is hardly discussed in Philippine media.
Don’t you agree that this a clear case of idiocy — a state of not knowing the truth — when topics like Robin and Mariel, Kris and James, Claudine and Angelica are treated by our media as the bigger, more important news stories over a development of global historical proportions which could cost many, many Filipino lives?
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