China should be allowed more control over its own seas.

Since the financial crisis it has been increasingly obvious that while China is not yet as powerful as the USA the US is no longer the lone superpower. China is an economic power and is beginning to throw its weight around in its own neighbourhood. It is claiming the whole of the South China sea in contravention of the laws of the sea that allow exclusive economic zones for countries along their cost up to 200 miles out. China has also been involved in a dispute with the USA over their military exercises off the Korean coast, demanding that they not be carried out in the Yellow sea. The USA was able to have a Monroe doctrine, should China be allowed an equivalent.


All the Yes points
All the No points

China should be allowed more control over its own seas.

Yes because... No because...

Monroe doctrine

It is sensible to give great powers some room when they are growing. Britain did this when allowing and to some extent enforcing the Monroe doctrine in the 19th Century when the USA was itself not yet powerful enough to do so. Indeed the original suggestion was that the USA would support Britain in a declaration against imperialism in the Western Hemisphere.[[ Primary Documents in American History, Monroe Doctrine, Library of Congress, ]]

President Monroe

the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers. . . we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their [European colonialism] system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety... It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent without endangering our peace and happiness; nor can anyone believe that our southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord.

[[President Monroe, President Monroe's seventh annual message to Congress, December 2, 1823, Britain’s willingness, as the pre-eminent power of the time to go along with this prevented any conflict between the two powers and eventually a peaceful handover of hegemony. On the contrary when Germany arose Britain could not allow Germany to have an equivalent (some form of control over the continent) as it was directly against British interests. This then lead to war.

As the US and China are on different continents it would be possible for the US to follow the British example and allow some equivalent of the Monroe doctrine over East Asia. This could then avoid conflict and prevent the two powers from antagonising each other.

Things were obviously very different in the 19th century to what they are now. For a start the USA promised to stay out of Europe’s business if Europe stayed out of its own business. In the same address Monroe said

President Monroe

Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting in all instances the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none.

[[President Monroe, President Monroe's seventh annual message to Congress, December 2, 1823,

This kind of reciprocity is no longer possible today. China can’t say ‘we won’t take a role anywhere else for good or ill’ like the US did as it is already intimately involved in many areas of the globe. This includes dealings with those the US would rather China had no involvement due to human rights abuses such as with Sudan[[Sudanese FM reiterates Khartoum's keenness to enhance cooperation with China, Xinhua, 18/9/10, areas where China is in competition with other powers like over energy[[Michael T. Klare, China: Energy Superpower, 21/9/10, Asia Times and even in the US’s back yard, for example China overtaking the USA to become Brazil’s number one trading partner.[[Malcolm Moore, China overtakes the US as Brazil’s largest trading partner, The Telegraph, 9/5/09, At the same time the USA has many interests in Asia and there are other great powers in the area who could not be induced into accepting something similar to the Monroe doctrine.

China should be allowed more control over its own seas.

Yes because... No because...

Threat to regional peace

It is always difficult to tell what the future will bring. However with the claim on submarines is that really so dramatic. Yes China is building newer submarines, however its sub fleet has been steadily shrinking from nearly 120 boats in the 1980s to around 55 today.[[Greg Grant, CNO Roughead Disputes China Sub Claim, DefenseTech, 16/6/10, The main thing of course is that the new ones will be more effecive, but it is not just numbers that count. If the USA can stay ahead in technology, especially in such an environment as submergables when stealth and being able to detect your enemy is important then it can retain the advantage even with fewer boats.

Throughout history China has been preoccupied with land invasions to the detriment of its naval capacity. However, due to it's now favourable situation on land China is now turning it's attention to its naval power projection. According to Robert Kaplan, the Chinese could field a submarine force larger than the US navy's within 15 years.[[Robert D. Kaplan, The Geography of Chinese Power, Foreign Policy, May/June 2010, (pay) (free)]]

The East and Southern China seas are of great importance to China's power status. Beijing views the incorporation of Taiwan into the Chinese mainland as being key to the advent of a 'Greater China'. The existence of an independent, democratic Taiwan with US support in the Eastern China sea is a threat to the 'Greater China project'. If Beijing was allowed to have its own 'Monroe Doctrine' it would be free to 'incorporate' Taiwan (possibly using military force) into the mainland and enable China to radiate uncontested military power in the region. This would threaten Japan, Philippines, South Korea and Australia and raise justifiable doubts over US commitments in the region.

China should be allowed more control over its own seas.

Yes because... No because...

Sovereignty of the Seas

Just because there is another naval power in the region should not mean that a dominant power should not have an equivilant of the monroe doctrine. Britain had its determination that the Royal Navy would be bigger than the next two navies combined during the 19th century when France was also a major naval power. This is pretty similar. Britain was a bit more flexible than the Monroe doctrine. The Mediterranean was a core interest for her, just like China claims the South China Sea and as such she kept a fleet in the med that was as big as the French navy there. France of course has a long Mediterranean coastline while Britain is some distance away.

The comparison with the Monroe Doctrine is a false one: It essentially entailed Anglo American co-operation in keeping out other western naval powers, most notably Spain. As Spain’s Navy was greatly inferior to that of Britain, and recognizably in decline this presented no problem. The US was the only naval power in the region, where China differs is that Japan stands on its doorstep, itself a Naval power of equal strength to China.

Far more comparable than the Monroe doctrine would be the Seventeenth Century British (English) claim to Sovereignty of the British seas, this was asserted against the Dutch, who made a living fishing in British (mostly Scottish) waters. They were the top two naval powers in Europe, as Japan and China are in Asia, England was in China’s position as the rising naval force against the more established Dutch, which could be read as the Japanese. The result was that England went to war with the Dutch three times in a quarter century, generally touched off by small incidents at sea. In 1672 the HMY Merlin sailed through the Dutch battle fleet which failed to render the salute the English felt their due as sovereigns of the British seas, this seemingly trivial incident was whipped up by the nationalistic British press used shamelessly by the government as an excuse for conflict, leading directly to the Third Anglo Dutch war. [[Pieter Geyl Orange and Stuart (London, 1969) p.325]].

It is not hard to draw a comparison to the arrest of the Chinese fishing boat captain and the dispute over exercises in the Yellow sea and the much larger diplomatic conflicts they engendered. the comparison can go further England was in a good position to close off Dutch trade in the event of conflict and thus erroneously expected an easy victory. In a similar vein China's Foreign Minister Yang reminded that Southeast Asian states they are "small countries" who depend on trade with China for their prosperity, while China is a "large country." Thus Southeast Asia should back off from conflicting maritime claims. [[Dan Twining, China's maritime aggression should be wake-up call to Japan, Foreign Policy, 20/9/10, Equally economic ties might seem to provide a powerful disincentive to war, China is Japan's biggest trading partner, with $95bn worth of trade in 2009. But the Anglo- Dutch example is also instructive, English Maritime power was dependent upon naval stores brought from the Baltic, a Dutch dominated trade. Thus each time England went to war with the Dutch it precipitated a major crisis in its own naval industrial complex, but that failed to deter them from starting another war later on.

China should be allowed more control over its own seas.

Yes because... No because...


Why should china be respectful to other nations in East Asia that have trampled all over it for the last hundred and fifty years? This is particularly the case with Japan but also includes the USA and other countries that were puppets of the colonial powers.

After all is there really equality in nations anyway?

Foreign Policy

Foreign Minister Yang's reminder that Southeast Asian states were "small countries" who depended on trade with China for their prosperity, while China was a "large country." There was therefore little chance of equality in their relations, Yang suggested. China's neighbors simply would have to take that asymmetry -- and, he added pointedly, their economic dependence on the China market -- into account before "internationalizing" their dispute with Beijing over competing maritime claims.

[[Dan Twining, China's maritime aggression should be wake-up call to Japan, Foreign Policy, 20/9/10, If not all powers are equal then why should there be reciprocity. China is simply being more open that big powers do what they want while the little do what they must to survive.

Chinas recent attitude has hardly been encouraging to anyone advocating they be left on a longer leash at sea. China has itself had little respect for others waters, In April (2010) it sent ten warships through the Miyako strait between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako without permission from Japan. [[]] A Chinese naval helicopter has also buzzed a Japanese warship near Japanese home waters [[]]
The Japanese detention of a chinese fishing boat (8th Sept. 2010) has been making waves all out of proportion to the incident’s importance. Some of the chinese response has been petulant verging on the ridiculous such as the “cancellation of a visit by a group of 1,000 young Japanese to the Shanghai World Expo” [[]] but moves to cut diplomatic ties are rather more worrying,[[]]. That the Senkaku Islands, in the waters of which the fishing boat was arrested, are administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan should be mentioned but if China wishes to have its claims to large stretches of territorial waters taken seriously it should respect the judicial due process of other countries rather than launch into tit for tat measures. The Japanese arrest may seem heavy handed, but it did not react to the two infractions mentioned at the start of this point, Japan had to act at some point or the Chinese would see a green light to continually expand their vague maritime boundary by acting irresponsibly at sea.

Debates > China should be allowed more control over its own seas.