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.
Please cast your vote after you've read the arguments.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
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.
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, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2010-09/18/c_13517754.htm%5D%5D areas where China is in competition with other powers like over energy[[Michael T. Klare, China: Energy Superpower, 21/9/10, Asia Times http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/LI21Dj05.html%5D%5D 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, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/5296515/China-overtakes-the-US-as-Brazils-largest-trading-partner.html%5D%5D 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.
Threat to regional peace
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.
Sovereignty of the Seas
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, http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/09/20/chinas_maritime_aggression_should_be_wake_up_call_to_japan%5D%5D 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.
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” [[http://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/japan-warns-against-arousing-nationalism-amid-row-with-china]] but moves to cut diplomatic ties are rather more worrying,[[http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/19/china-japan-contacts-detained-trawler-captain]]. 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.
After all is there really equality in nations anyway? [[Dan Twining, China's maritime aggression should be wake-up call to Japan, Foreign Policy, 20/9/10, http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/09/20/chinas_maritime_aggression_should_be_wake_up_call_to_japan%5D%5D 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.
What do you think?