Research Paper: In the South China Sea

Pages: 7 (2236 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Asian  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] The relations that govern this conflict are by no means limited to simplistic realist oil interests.

Complicating Issues and Possible Solutions

There are a number of different complicating issues. Certainly, the social construct issues identified above complicate things -- given the history between China and Japan it is entirely unlikely that China can back down without being humiliated. The United States likewise can ill afford to be seen as weak in the region, not just for the implications that would have on China and its power (especially in relation to Taiwan), but also with Russia and North Korea in the neighborhood as well.

These complications make it difficult to find solutions. The first one is that one party backs away slowly, enough not to lose face. Given that Japan has international law on its side, that will have to be China. China is unlikely to do this, though it certainly does not have to tell its citizens that it backed off, so it can save a little bit of face. This option is the best because most countries have an interest in the status quo. If this is not China's real fight, then it does not need to win this one either.

The second option is international mediation. This would require parsing through the myriad of legal issues. That is not all that practical, given that it involves the resolution of the Taiwan issue. Senkaku in that context has no real relevance. However, China may prefer to leverage the issue for something -- they can certainly try but without possession they have little leverage. All the actors are quite well aware that open conflict is not in China's best interests. The third option is just that -- a military resolution.

Recommendation & Summary

It is recommended that China should back off from the Senkaku Islands. It has a number of other claims in the region, and all will bring about roughly the same response. The issue here for China likely has nothing to do with the islands. Senkaku may be a distraction for the domestic audience, or testing the waters so to speak to build its credibility. China is probably playing the long game here, with Senkaku being a stepping stone to the Taiwan issue. From a realist perspective, nobody gains from open conflict, and the West appears ready to call China's bluff on this issue. Moreover, even if China took the islands, it would be a Pyrrhic victory. It would get a handful of rocks, some oil, and put the entire world on alert with respect to its military ambitions -- future gains would become much more difficult with American and Russia fortifying their influence in the region.

The Senkaku Islands is the sort of dispute that serves nobody any goods. They are not material to the wealth of any of these nations, and their relevance to the power structure in Asia would merely be symbolic. It is the sort of conflict nobody can really win. Most likely, China will continue to posture on this one, before eventually backing away quietly, while retaining its claim to the islands. These three countries and China especially are far too pragmatic to see genuine value in keeping this dispute on the front burner.

References

Beavis, Jerry. (2014). The IR theory knowledge base. IR Theory. Retrieved April 30, 2014 from http://www.irtheory.com/know.htm

Holmes, Jason. (2014). China might actually seize Japan's southern islands. Foreign Policy. Retrieved April 30, 2014 from http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/04/08/china_might_actually_seize_japan_s_southern_islands

Kirshner, John. (2012). The tragedy of offensive realism: Classical realism and the rise of China. European Journal of International Relations. Vol. 18 (1) March 2012 53-75.

McCurry, Justin & Branigan, Tania. (2014). Obama says U.S. will defend Japan in island dispute with China. The Guardian. Retrieved April 30, 2014 from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/24/obama-in-japan-backs-status-quo-in-island-dispute-with-china

Posner, Eric. (2014). Why are China and Japan inching towards war over five tiny islands? Slate Magazine. Retrieved April 30, 2014 from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2014/02/the_senkaku_or_diaoyu_islands_where_world_war_iii_could_start_because_of.html [END OF PREVIEW]

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In the South China Sea.  (2014, April 30).  Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/south-china-sea/9137885

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"In the South China Sea."  30 April 2014.  Web.  19 May 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/south-china-sea/9137885>.

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"In the South China Sea."  Essaytown.com.  April 30, 2014.  Accessed May 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/south-china-sea/9137885.