Social Mood Conference  |  Socionomics Foundation

By Chuck Thompson | Excerpted from the April 2016  Socionomist


 

China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea has antagonized a growing number of countries. US leaders say that in the near future, China will be able to project substantial military power in the region. In the April 2016 issue of The Socionomist, Chuck Thompson takes a look at China’s actions and at the potential for conflict with its neighbors as well as the US. Read excerpts from his article below.

South China SeaThe South China Sea is one of the world’s most contested regions. The body of water is subject to competing territorial claims by China and several other countries in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and most recently, Indonesia. Though social mood is trending positively in many of these nations, a trend toward negative social mood in China, which claims more than 80% of the Sea’s territory, is fueling the potential for serious conflict to erupt.

China’s benchmark stock market index—the Shanghai Composite—reflects the country’s trend toward negative social mood. The index is 41% below its June 2015 high and 50% below its 2007 all-time high. China’s negative mood is also evident in its flagging economy and in its escalating authoritarianism …

In recent years, China has seized many areas of the South China Sea that had been claimed by other nations. In 2012, China took the uninhabited Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. In 2014, it placed an oilrig within waters claimed by Vietnam. China recently towed the oilrig to the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin, off the eastern coast of Vietnam—an affront to Vietnam, which has complained to China’s embassy in Hanoi. …

Chinese ships have also begun entering other countries’ territorial waters or disturbing their vessels. Last month, men claiming to be from the Chinese coast guard boarded a Vietnamese fishing boat and destroyed its communications and fishing equipment. … More than 100 Chinese fishing boats guarded by two Chinese coast guard vessels entered Malaysia’s territorial waters. Sailors on Chinese coast guard vessels threw bottles at Philippine fishermen, who responded by throwing rocks and firebombs. …

China has also used dredging to build up 3,000 acres of artificial islands within disputed waters, where it has constructed runways for military aircraft and deep harbors for naval ships. Among these artificial islands is Subi Reef, where China has begun work on a combat-capable air facility. In February, China placed a missile system on Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands. Recent satellite photos show fighter jets and a fire control radar system on the island as well. …

The Philippines has asked the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to declare China’s sea claims illegal. The court is likely to issue a ruling within the next three months. China is expected to lose some elements of the case, but time will tell if it accepts the ruling or bucks the international legal system. …


 

In the rest of this article, Thompson looks at other countries’ responses to China’s actions, including increased defense spending and growing cooperation with the United States. He also discusses China’s aggression toward the US military and its threats to US leaders regarding their involvement in the South China Sea.

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