S China Sea key to China’s status in world order: scholar


The US recently sent P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft to monitor China’s deployments in the South China Sea region and has said that the country may send planes within the 12 nautical mile contiguous waters of the disputed islands, according to a piece by Liang Fang, a professor at China’s National Defense University, published on the website of China’s .ationalist tabloid, the Global Times.

This has heightened tensions in the region, as all eyes are on how things will play out between the US and China, Liang stated.

The US is determined to maintain freedom of navigation in the Pacific and will likely attempt to acquire control of it, as a “17th strategic shipping route,” Liang said.

In February 1986, the US announced plans to control 16 of the world’s most strategically positioned shipping lanes, to establish itself as the dominant world power, Liang said. In the last 30 years, the US has deployed military strength to these 16 shipping lanes with naval bases and joint military exercises, asserting tight control, the website said.

None of these 16 shipping lanes are in the South China Sea however, according to Liang. In the Western Pacific there are four, the Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait, the Makassar Strait and the Korea Strait. With a shift in US military strategy, tactics with regard to the shipping lanes have changed too, according to Liang. Strategic shipping routes include straits, tunnels and canals, as well as islands and reefs surrounding these routes and certain maritime territories, said Liang. The US Navy’s movements in the South China Sea region indicate that they have shifted from a tactic of controlling major straits to controlling strategic sea territory, said Liang. This makes the South China Sea the “17th shipping corridor” which the US hopes to control.

Controlling maritime territory is a lot harder than controlling straits, said Liang. Controlling straits only entails controlling the countries that have coasts on the strait, by establishing bases or forging alliances, allowing one to seal off the strait to enemy ships in wartime. Controlling sea territories, on the other hand, requires controlling the air and the sea. The US Navy has made a series of moves in the South China Sea, suggesting that it is willing to support its allies in the region, however, it is more keen to control the important shipping routes in the South China Sea, according to Liang.

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