Last week, during an East Asia Summit meeting in Phnom Penh, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to stand fast and use diplomacy to resolve claims over territorial waters in the South China Sea. China has insisted that it had “indisputable sovereignty” over islands that are claimed by Vietnam to the Scarborough Shoal near the Philippines. They include islands near Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. Secretary Clinton urged these three nations to collectively negotiate with the Chinese regarding territorial waters. China wanted bilateral talks with each country where they felt they can intimate them into surrounding territorial claims without much attention. In an angry response, the Chinese delivered a message to the United States that amounted to “Shut Up!”
China maintains that its claims to the islands of the South China Sea are ancient and were reaffirmed by China’s 1947 claim, which wasn’t disputed. Furthermore, as their argument goes, when the Communists took power in 1949, they expanded their territorial claim. Nevertheless, the traditional boundary that China claims in the South China Sea exists in theory only. Additional nations have made claims to islands and reefs in the region for fishing and mineral rights. However, after the discovery of oil in the region, the Dragon knew it had to reclaim all of South China Sea.
China needs oil and lots of it. They need it for their military and their factories so they can continue to manufacture cheap parts that are too expensive to make anywhere else. The Chinese mainland is energy-poor and needs to import coal and oil to meet its energy needs. The South China Sea has an estimated 17.7 billion tons of crude oil, and China is expanding its presence in the region to claim exclusive rights to any oil found. China needs to have total control of the sea lanes in the region to insure she gets the energy needed to be a superpower. They don’t want any external forces involved (read the United States) as they go about their territory grab.
The Chinese now feel emboldened that they can start throwing around their weight. They have a permanent position on the UN Security Council, they are no longer afraid of Russia, and they own a good portion of America’s debt. So what does Hillary Clinton do when the Chinese tell her to shut up? She shuts up.
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