China and the South China Sea. A quest for dominance in global politics

Master's Thesis, 2016

98 Pages, Grade: 71


Table of Contents

1.1. Background to the Study
The South China Sea: Historical and Geographical Audit
1.2. Statement of the Problem
1.3. Research Questions
1.4. Objectives of the Study
1.5. Research Propositions
1.6. Significance of the Study
1.7. Scope and Limitations of the Study
1.8. Research Methodology
Sources of Data Collection
Research Design
Data Collection
Data Analysis

2.1. The Concept of Global Power
2.2. Is China a Global Power?
2.3. Territorial Acquisitions and their Strategic Significance to States’ Power Boosts
The Golan Heights
Strategic Significance of Golan Heights to Israel
Security through Economic Gain
The Sinai Peninsula
Strategic Significance of Sinai Peninsula to Israel
West Bank
Gaza Strip
Strategic Significance of West Bank and Gaza Strip to Israel
Louisiana Purchase
Strategic Importance of Louisiana to U.S.A
New Orleans
Alaska Purchase
The strategic significance of Alaska to U.S
Crimea Annexation
Strategic Significance of Crimea to Russia
Sevastopol and Russia
2.4. Theoretical Framework
Structural Realism

3.1. Disputants and their Claims
Marine Resources
Legitimacy Consolidation
Energy Resources
Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs)
2.3. Incidents in the South China Sea
2.4. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and SCS
Internal waters
Territorial Sea
Contiguous zone
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
Continental shelf
High Sea
Maritime Zones Generated by Offshore Features in the South China Sea

4.1. The Validity of China’s Claims
The Nine-Dash (U-shaped) Lines
The Validity of Maps
The Validity of China’s Historic Claims
The Validity of China’s Historic Waters Claim
Exercise of Authority
Continuity of Authority
Historic Title
4.2. China’s Strategies in the South China Sea
Soft Strategies
Cooperation Strategy
Delaying Strategy
Calculative Strategy
Salami-slicing Strategy
Hard Strategy
4.3. Reactions to China’s Claims and Strategies by other Claimants
Hard Strategy
Internationalizing the Dispute
4.4. United States and South China Sea
4.5. ASEAN and South China Sea


5.1. Conclusion

5.2. Recommendations

Joint Development of Resources

ASEAN and Code of Conduct

U.S Needs to Show Enough Seriousness in Asia





“I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me”

The above extract from the book of Philippians 4:13 in the holy bible clearly summarizes what I passed through in the course of this research. Initially, I thought I had bitten more than I could chew by choosing the topic, but God showed his mercy and a way. Glory be to him!

In a special way I wish to acknowledge the invaluable efforts and supports of my parents, Rev. Pastor and Mrs. Michael Uzoma Ebonine towards the success of my Masters Degree programme. I cannot thank them enough for the value they attach to quality education for their children. Like I always say, should there be anything like re-incarnation into this world, they will still be my parents.

To my supervisor, Dr. M.I.M. Abutudu, a man I intentionally refer to as “Professor Emeritus” due to his versatility and refinement in the field of learning and character. I remain grateful for his humble and modest corrections and contributions that made the project a reality.

To Professor, S.I. Ebohon who is like a father to me, for his fatherly advice and highly educating words. I am highly appreciative of his personality and aura.

To my siblings: Engr. (Mr.) Hope Ebonine, Rita Ebonine (Industrialist), Mrs. Emmanuela Ebonine (Accountant), Dr. Bright Ebonine, Grace Ebonine (Banker) and Destiny Ebonine (Economist), I say thanks to you all.

To my friends: Umelo Rita (Nne Nne), Mrs. Edu Jennifer, Mr. Haruna Abu and all members of CHC No.3 Oluku, I thank you all for your immense love you showed me all through the duration of the degree programme.


The study aims at uncovering the immediate and remote causes of China’s land reclamations and assertiveness in the South China Sea. It uncovers that it is not unconnected with the strategic importance of South China Sea, a sea that connects the Western- Pacific and Indian Ocean. These are routes that account for more than half of the world trade and contain large deposits of marine lives and hydrocarbons. Privatizing all these resources and the routes will lift China to the height of global power status, a position that will enable it to challenge the supremacy of U.S. hence, its sand filling and structures building agenda in South China Sea. Within the lenses of structural and offensive realism, the study captures the reasons for China’s actions, modernization agenda and even U.S ‘pivot’ to Asia-Pacific as the quest for survival in a world without a government to restrain the actions of the states. The international system becomes a zero-sum game where the winner takes it all. Also, using the qualitative method of analysis to validate the research questions raised, the study finds out that the historic claims raised by China in its nine-dashed line is not founded in the UNCLOS. With the global security dilemma which continues to play out in the South China Sea, the study predicts that the dispute will not end anytime soon. Therefore, as part of efforts to reduce tension in the region, there is need for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has seemed impotent to tackle the dispute to forge one voice against China. Aside the idea of joint development of resources which is still the best option for the claimants, United States should show more commitment in the region in other to deter an assertive and aggressive China, which has recently shown greater international activism especially since the enthronement of Xi Jiping, the President of Peoples Republic of China.


1.1. Background to the Study

The South China Sea dispute is one of the most contentious territorial and maritime issues in contemporary times and most entangling in the Asian continent. As Taylor Fravel captures it, “no international maritime dispute has garnered more attention than the contest over the islands, reefs and waters of the South China Sea” (Fravel, 2011:292). The dispute involves six states: Vietnam, People’s Republic of China (PRC), Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and the Republic of China (ROC or Taiwan) with overlapping claims to territorial sovereignty and maritime rights over the control of all or some of the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands, Pratas Islands and Macclesfield Bank which encompass over hundred islands, reefs and banks throughout the South China Sea.

These islands are hotly contested because of its perceived abundance of oil and natural gas deposits; contain important shipping lanes and fishing areas which make South China Sea to be dubbed “the second Persian Gulf “(Wu, 2014). It is worth noting that the abundance of natural resources in the South China Sea as well as its other importance do not only capture the interests of the claimants but non-claimant in United States of America which this study will analyze in the next chapters. As Buzan Barry rightly points out, “the dramatic rise in the realizable economic value of oceans and the rapid spread of sovereign states to cover virtually all land areas are reasons to explain why oceans have become areas of intense competition for scarce goods” (Buzan, 1978) in (Andy, 2011).

There are avalanche and plethora of reasons that drive the claimants into the conflict. Apart from the economic reasons due to the abundance of natural resources the South China Sea, political and patriotic reasons also drive the claimants. Though, Klare (2001) opines that access to vital resources like oil and gas raises the economic competition especially at this end of cold war other than political and ideological divisions, it is very clear that the quest to retain legitimacy at home as well as to be a major participant in the global affairs intensify both transparent and opaque dimensions the conflict has taken which further leaves Klare’s assertion for more criticism and scrutiny.

However, the bone of contention as far as the South China Sea conflict is concerned is the assertiveness of China which is also the focus of this study. Though, each claimant of South China Sea occupies one or more islands under its grab, the extent of China’s land reclamation continues to infuriate not only the other claimants but also non-claimants like United States of America. Due to China’s military and economic strength, it has continued to act provocatively in the South China Sea including the recent mount of surface-to-air missile and the suspected Air Defense Identification Zone which is typical of the type China instituted in the East China Sea, another territorial and maritime dispute between it and Japan over Senkaku/ Diayou islands. China claims that the islands and its adjacent waters have been the Chinese territory since “ancient times” which it supported with both historical and legal evidence. Its claims are captured in the nine-dash “U-shape line” formerly eleven dash lines (which will be discussed under China’s claims), lines which incubates all of the South China Sea, hence the intensification of the conflict. As expected, the construction of artificial islands by China has elicited serious concerns and responses from other claimants especially Vietnam and Philippines and non-claimants like United States of America. Alarmingly, China has dismissed these concerns and maintained through its Foreign Minister, Hua Chunying that: “China asserts indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands (Spratlys) and the adjacent waters, and China’s activities on recent islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands fall entirely within China’s sovereignty and are totally justifiable” (Hua, 2014) in (Quintos, 2015).

As expected of any territorial dispute, there have been many formal and informal discussions held and agreements reached among the claimants or between the claimants and non-claimants in order to peacefully resolve the dispute. For instance, aside bilateral and multilateral agreements signed by claimants against another or/and by other non-claimants, Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) in 2002 marshaled Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea which will guide the actions of the non- Chinese claimants and China in the South China Sea to ease tensions. China has refused all multilateral actions including appearance in the Arbitration Panel where the Philippines petitioned China. To China, bilateral agreement is preferable as it believes that its sheer size of economic and military strength would afford it the greater opportunity to have better bargain against any negotiating claimant state. Unavoidably, the Philippines and Vietnam, more especially, have sought the assistance of their ally, USA to counter-balance against threatening and assertive China. Meanwhile, USA has been an advocate of ‘freedom of navigation’ even in the South China Sea, an assertion which China has also bluntly refused.

Thus, in the light of the above, this study will undertake the exploration of China’s activities in the South China Sea in its quest to catapult itself to the apogee of global power status. Furthermore, in relation to this, China’s strategies in the South China Sea and its quest for maintaining such status will be captured and the resultant implications of such strategies to the claimants and U.S.A, their strategies and counter-strategies against China will also be analyzed and pigeon-holed.

The South China Sea: Historical and Geographical Audit

The South China Sea was before now, an abandoned area that states were not interested in due to how dangerous the region was claimed to be prior to World War II. Today, it has become a region where different theories have been formulated to explain the geography, significance, claims and interests of the claimants and non-claimants like United States.

South China Sea lies in the south east of the Asian continent. It is bounded by China, Malaysia and Brunei to the south, Philippines and Hainan Island to the north, Vietnam to the west and Taiwan to the north east. It also encapsulates part of the pacific ocean stretching from Singapore and the Strait of Malacca in the southwest (Monique, 2000). Furthermore, South China Sea contains a large expanse of water totaling 648,000 square miles from Luzon Strait in the north to the Malacca Strait in the south (Schofield and Prescott, 1985). Inside this water are thousands of islands, that include rocks, islets, reefs and low-tide elevations, which are fully submerged at high tide. Beyond that, South China Sea contains islands which include Spratlys, Paracels, Macclessfields and the Pratas. The islands contain over 250 islands, atolls, cays, shoals, reefs and sandbars (Bautista, 2007). South China Sea was first occupied by France in the 1930s and later was handed over to Japan after the World War II. As a result, the South China Sea was included into Japanese administrative system. At the end of the war, Japan left the region unoccupied (Shaohua, 2006). Since then, South China Sea has become “the mother of all territorial disputes” (Baviera, 2004:205).

The Spratlys are located between 4∘ and 11∘ 3 ∕ north latitude and 109∘ 30 ∕ and 117∘ 50 ∕ east longitude. Though, the Spratlys are too small for human support and settlement, they contain fresh water and other land-based resources which make the islands significant to the disputants (Joyner, 1999). The Paracels are located between 15∘ 46 ′ and 17∘ 109′ north and between 111∘ 11′ and 112∘ 54′ east. Besides, the Paracels are archipelagoes which are subdivided into the amphrite and the crescent group. The largest of them is Woody Island which is about 1.8 km long and 1.1 -1.2 km wide. Aside these two groups, the archipelagoes contain over 30 islets, sand banks or reefs and the area is rich in phosphate deposits (Tonnesson, 2002). Scarborough Shoal is about 198 km west of Subic Bay. The shoal’s highest point is south rock and it measures 1.8m above water during high tide. The shoal and its surrounding area are rich fishing grounds. The atolls’ lagoon provide some protection for fishing boats during harsh weather which is why it is highly contested by Philippines and China as they are located in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines (Zou, 1999). The Macclesfield Bank is one of the largest atolls in the world even though it is completely submerged without any emergent cays or islets. It lies east of the Paracels, southwest of the Pratas and north of the Spratlys.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

Internationally, as earlier stated, the most contentious maritime and territorial dispute is the South China Sea. Though, six countries are involved, the claimant that readily comes to mind is an assertive China and its controversial nine-dashed line, also known as “U-shaped line” which it has failed to clarify only to provide that “China asserts indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha islands and the adjacent waters, and China’s activities on relevant islands and reefs of the Nansha islands fall entirely within China’s sovereignty and are totally justifiable” (Hua, 2014) in (Quintos, 2015).

Since the enthronement of Xi Jiping (the president of China), China’s foreign policy of “peaceful rise” and “peaceful co-existence” has morphed to assertiveness, extroversion and greater international security activism (Haythem, 2015). To further lay bare its assertiveness, China has continued to undertake an extensive land reclamation and construction of several reefs in the Spratly Islands chain of South China Sea in spite of various agreements signed between it and other claimants. Expectedly, these actions have raised eyebrows from both claimants and non-claimants like USA (Dolven et al, 2015). Though, in disputes of this nature, nerves are raised but the extent of China’s land grabs and occupation has attracted both regional and international concerns and condemnation

China’s assertiveness could be captured from its recent catapult into the world power fix as well as its military modernization which as expected has led to concomitant arms race in the region as other claimants have increased their defense budget in order to balance against China’s increasing power rise. As Shearer (2013) observed that by 2010, ASEAN defense budget spending was sixty percent higher than it was in 2001. To augment this, United States of America has been embraced to help rebalance against a grabbing China.

In view of this, this study will tend to explore and analyze China’s claims, why its assertiveness, its strategies in South China Sea especially its military modernization and the validity of its claims.

1.3. Research Questions

1) What is the nature of China’s claim in the South China Sea?
2) Why is South China Sea so significant to China and other claimants?
3) How valid is China’s claim?
4) What measures and strategies has China undertaken to maintain its claim in the South China Sea?
5) What are the implications of such strategies to other claimants and United States?
6) What are the actions and reactions in terms of strategies and counter-strategies of claimants and United States against China’s strategies?
7) What are the roles of ASEAN in the South China Sea disputes?

1.4. Objectives of the Study

The study sets out to accomplish these myriad of objectives. They are:

1) To determine the nature of China’s claim in the South China Sea
2) To ascertain the significance of South China Sea to China and other claimants
3) To explore the validity of China’s claim in South China Sea
4) To properly capture the measures and strategies of China in its quest to maintain and consolidate its claim in South China Sea
5) To uncover the implications of China’s strategies to other claimants and United States in South China Sea
6) To discover the actions and reactions of other claimants and United States in South China Sea in terms of their strategies and counter-strategies against China’s strategies
7) To assess the roles of Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) in South China Sea dispute.

1.5. Research Propositions

The central proposition is that China’s claim to the South China Sea is to cement its arrival as a dominant player in global politics. Other propositions include:

1) China’s interests in South China Sea are as results of geographical, political, economic and nationalist factors.
2) China has become more assertive since the enthronement of Xi Jinping
3) The South China Sea dispute has led to increased defense budget by the claimants
4) The South China Sea dispute continues to undermine the existing peace and unity in the South East Asia which ASEAN was instituted to protect

1.6. Significance of the Study

Undoubtedly, there are abundance of literature by experts in international relations on security and maritime related issues in the South China Sea. However, this study tries to contribute to these already existing literatures in the field by delving into in-depth exposition in order to uncover reasons China undertakes land reclamation and land grabs. China believes that as a one-time super power before its fall during the hegemonic period of Great Britain, it is high time it catapulted itself back to where it once belonged and maintained such in order to make itself relevant in the global politics. Thus, to China, South China Sea is a very good, apt and rare opportunity that presents itself which China must not make mistake about in holding firm if it is to cement its status in global affairs.

The demise of Soviet Union and the enthronement of United States of America after the cold war ushered in a hegemonic power and a unipolar moment (Krauthammer, 1990) which United States has continued to enjoy uninterrupted within the context of liberal democracy and globalization. China has been an advocate of multi-polarity which it believes will limit the influence of United States of America in world events. With the recent emergence of some power centers like China, India, Asia Tigers and rising powers in Latin America and Africa, and the diminishing United States of America, China becomes all-surging to maintain relevance and recognition.

By attempting a vivid explanation of these issues as they relate to the South China Sea dispute, this study tends to expand the frontiers of knowledge on the South China Sea dispute which will invariably benefit researchers, policy makers and scholars in the field. Above all, the study hopes to escalate debate which is the beauty of any international discourse and academics generally.

1.7. Scope and Limitations of the Study

The South China Sea dispute involves six countries: China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Philippines. However, the concentration of the study will be on China which continues to exhibit high levels of assertiveness, insecurity and vulnerability. As a result, the study will dwell on China’s power status and power modernizations in its quest to be secure, offensive and defensive and able to dictate a world order. Furthermore, the study will focus on the reactions of other claimants and non-claimants in the South China Sea in their bid to counter an assertive China. The role of international law and cases will be examined in light of China’s claims and how ASEAN has been able to effectively play its role in resolving the dispute between its members and China will also be captured.

However, due to financial and time constraints, proposed visit to locus in quo (South China Sea) could not materialize. Hence, the study limits itself to extrapolation of information from secondary sources.

1.8. Research Methodology

Sources of Data Collection

Data for this research shall be sourced from secondary means: books, journals, newspapers, and speeches, already-conducted interviews on the subject, periodicals, maps and other secondary sources which are relevant to the thesis.

Research Design

For the purpose of this research, the qualitative content analysis will be deployed. A qualitative content analysis is an approach of empirical, methodological controlled analysis of texts within their context of communication, following content analytic rules and step by step models without rash quantifications (Mayring, 2000:2). This approach is significant when socio-political and economic issues are being investigated. Thus, it is a reliable process designed to condense raw data into categories or themes based on valid inference and interpretation (Zhang& Wildemuth, 2009). Qualitative content analysis will aptly be useful in investigating and analyzing the South China Sea dispute and the nuances it has assumed especially as China fights to globally dominate.

Data Collection

As stated above, secondary sources of data collection will be deployed. Furthermore, maps and numerical data: tables and graphs shall be deemed to supplement the textual evidence which the research rests. By sample and sampling technique, the research of this nature need not have a representative sample like its counterpart, quantitative content analysis requires. Thus, non- random sampling or non-probability sampling method will be utilized.

Data Analysis

This research shall explicate the existing ideas, themes and concepts to make generalization possible. Analysis shall be based on relevant literatures while data in the forms of table, maps, graphs and other representations shall be gathered for onward understanding of the research. As Zhang and Wildemuth rightly capture it, that the goal of qualitative content analysis is “identifying important themes or categories within a body content and to provide a rich description of the social reality” (2009:12). They also assert that qualitative content analysis “can support the development of new theories and models as well as validating existing themes and providing these descriptions of particular events” (2009:12).

The researcher shall thoroughly engage the work with a measure of authenticity, as Neuman puts it, “qualitative researchers are more interested in authenticity than validity” (Neuman, 2003:185).

1.9. Lists of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


2.1. The Concept of Global Power

Rosita Dellios (2005) in his article, “The Rise of China as a Global Power”, contends that the term global power is a more contemporary term for ‘great power’ and ‘super power’. According to him, super power “was the creation of the politics of 20th century nuclear weapon technology, even though the coining of the term in 1944 did not take the nuclear dimension into account but rather the global reach of a nation” (p. 4). Furthermore, he argues that the term great power was a 19th century creation. As he puts it, “as the cold war became more entrenched, that which distinguished a nuclear super power from a 19th century great power was possession of the power of ultimate destruction and the strategic doctrine of nuclear deterrence that emerged from it” (p. 4).Though, he does not clearly define what a global power is, he nevertheless gives the attributes of a global power. As he captures it, “beyond being merely ‘great’, or only ‘super’, they must now be global and attain transnational competencies that permit interaction with non-state actors, regional forums and the institutions of global governance. In short, a global power needs to promote international order; possess formidable military capability and the communicated will to use it, and engage productively in transnational projects such as global justice, as well as deal effectively with transnational threats such as militant religious extremists” (p.5).

Dellios’ attributes of a global power is in order, however, to deal effectively with transnational threats like terrorism as a yardstick to qualify as a global power is over-stretched. This is because these types of threats require collective actions of states to combat and not only within the jurisdiction of one state to fight; otherwise, not even USA will be qualified to be called a global power.

David Shambaugh (2013) in his book, China goes Global: The Partial Power views global power from the angle not completely different from the view expressed by Dellios. Though he, like Dellios, does not expressly define what a global power is, it could be deduced from his work that a global power is one which can influence events in different parts of the world. Furthermore, Shambaugh enumerates the attributes of a global power as: global governance, global economic presence, cultural impact, global security presence and international identity (perception or image).

This study corroborates with many of the views expressed by these scholars especially as they concern the attributes of a global power. It takes a global power to be economically, diplomatically, culturally and militarily sophisticated to influence outcomes and the will to establish world order.

2.2. Is China a Global Power?

This question without doubts has divided the opinion of experts and thinkers in the field. While some argue that China is a global power, others argue that China is an emerging global power within the considerations of the attributes of global power discussed above.

Joshua Kurlantzick (2007) in his book, Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power is Transforming the World argues that China’s global influence is as a result of its increasing soft power and diplomacy in international politics. Soft power which he defines as “that which rests on the ability to shape the preferences of others…leading by example and attracting others to do what you want” (p. 5) is the most “potent weapon in Beijing’s foreign policy arsenal” (p.5). China’s soft power rose when United States of America’s power declined in 1990s as a result of its reliance on hard power. It was thus, China’s wisdom to use the term “peaceful rise” (p.38) instead of depending on hard politics. China is now seen as “benign, peaceful, and constructive actor in the world” (p.39). He goes further to argue that China’s peaceful rise has made it possible to use aid, trade and investment to charm other nations of the world. With evidence, he states that the 2005 BBC poll of twenty-two nations “found that 48 percent of people found China’s role in the world mainly positive” (p.112). He concludes his examination by warning USA to make concerted effort at regaining its appeal in the world or face a more powerful China.

There is veracity in some of Kurlantzick’s argument especially as it relates to the decline in America’s soft power. Before Barrack Obama’s enthronement as the president of USA, USA’s soft power has been eroded with its activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and host of other states. In a way to restore its fast- declining soft power, U. S has continued to engage in the restoration of diplomatic ties with some states like Cuba, Vietnam and host of other states. However, Kurlantzick’s argument on China’s soft power and diplomacy is over-stated and flawed in some angle. China has become aggressive as its activities in South China Sea would testify and it has refused all multilateral approaches aimed at resolving the dispute but prefers bilateralism due to power asymmetry between it and other claimants.

In China goes Global: A Partial Power, David Shambaugh (2013) gives a critical view of China’s global power status. He contends that China has moved from the periphery to the centre in international politics. China is soaking up investment, expanding its overseas footprint, asserting itself in Asian neighbourhood, a sought-after suitor in global governance diplomacy, sailing its navies, broadening its global media, exposure and cultural presence and managing a mega-economy that is the engine of global growth, “China is not (yet) influencing or shaping actions or events in various parts of the world” (p. 8). This is why Shambaugh coins the term ‘partial power’ in his subtitle. He assesses China based on the five attributes of a global power earlier stated.

On diplomacy, Shambaugh contends that China cannot “actively contribute to solving problems” and thus “punches way below its weight in international diplomacy” (p.309). On leadership, he argues that “China is not ready for global leadership – not because it lacks the tool box of a global power, but because it does not have the ideational inclination to do so” (p. 311). On global governance, he says, China is “a very narrow-minded, self-seeking only to maximize its own national interests and power. It cares little for global governance and enforcing global standards of behavior” (p. 310). For this fact, China has “minimal soft power and mixed-to-poor international image” (p. 207) being “a lonely power, lacking close friends and possessing no friends… China is in the community of nations but is in many ways not really part of the community, it is formally involved, but it is not normatively integrated” (p.7). Economically, though China is evidently an economic powerhouse, the second largest economy, its economy may not endure. As he puts it, “in 2009, for instance, the WTO records that fully 93.6% of China’s exports were manufactured goods, dominated by low-end consumer products” (p. 157) and its attempts to break into the higher-end products “China has fallen short of its decade-long goal to build the world’s leading semi-conductor industry, as it still imports the vast majority of microchips for the products it assembles. Experts estimate that China’s best chip factories remain two to three generations behind world leaders such as Intel” (p. 116). On security, “China accounts for nearly half of the world’s growth in energy consumption over the previous decade” (p. 162). Besides, the three biggest Chinese companies are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). More so, a global power needs to possess sea power and viable navy. As he puts it, “more than 90% of China’s merchandise trade and 95% of its oil and gas imports are by sea; at such it will need to develop a naval doctrine focused on patrolling sea-lanes of communication and the transit ways” (p.304). It is based on this thirst of energy for security that China supports states with tainted international standing like Congo, Ivory-coast, Somalia, and Sudan etc. as these states are rich in natural resources. As he puts it, “…evidence that Chinese diplomats have repeatedly sought to intimidate investigating UN arms experts and attempted to block required annual reports to the Security Council” (p.305).

David Kang (2010) is in support of Shambaugh in his article, China’s Rise: Intentions, Power and Evidence where he discusses China’s rise, intentions and power which he adduces evidence to support with a lot of pessimism about China. Though, “foreign businesses have flocked to invest in China, while Chinese experts have begun to flood world markets; China is modernizing its military, has joined numerous regional and international institutions; and it is increasingly visible in international politics” (p. 257) yet, when compared with USA, a developed and a global power, “China remains a developing country” (p.261). Economically, quoting from CIA reports, he argues that from 1978 to 2003, China averaged 9.7%growth… which lifted 402 million people out of poverty” (p.261) yet, “China remains a third world country” (p. 261). Technologically, “China is a developing country and although it is rapidly increasing its technological and scientific prowess, for the most part it is a low-cost, low-value manufacturer far behind the advanced countries” (p.261).

Though, “China continues to modernize its military, yet it spends one-fifth of what the US spends on defense every year” (p.261). He maintains that for a state to be a global power, domestic issues would be first tackled significantly before hoping to go global. As for China, there are still hosts of domestic problems left to tackle. Politically, “there are issues of regional separatism a tenuous balance of power between the central and the local governments; the erosion of state security, extensive government corruption and others” (p.261). Economically, “major issues include how to raise the standard of living of China’s vast rural population; labour unrest; inefficient state-owned enterprises that still comprise legal system and a dearth of trained technical and managerial talent” (p.261-2). Socially, “China faces rapid deforestation, water pollution and urbanization that have polluted not only China, but also surrounding countries” (p.262).

This study strongly aligns with Shambaugh’s and Kang’s views about China’s globalism. Though, China’s rise has been a model for developing nations and a surprise to developed nations, within the context and logic of global power indexes, China has a lot do — tackling domestic issues, democratizing, military sophistication (especially its navy), building its image and the will to create world order without offending its friends. Until China solves the multiple problem facing it domestic, regional and international, as Shambaugh puts it, “China may be thought as a middle power and a regional power like Australia, Brazil, France, India, Japan or Russia” (p.310). However sarcastic and underrating this statement might seem, the fact remains that views that China is a global power are according to Shambaugh “over-stated and incorrect” (p. 6).

However, one fundamental question that should be asked is: how could South China Sea catapult China to the apex of global power? Honestly, to be a global power entails a gradual process, a path China has chosen to thread by venturing into territorial acquisitions as can be seen in its dispute with Japan in Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands, South China Sea dispute and other territorial disputes with its neighbours. Though, acquiring South China Sea would not translate into a full global power, however, it will be a good and strategic start for China. The sea is strategically significant not only to China and its neighbours, but also to United States (as will be fully discussed under the significance of South China Sea).

As Alfred Mahan, an American naval officer, in his book, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783, maintains that to conquer the world, a state must have a sea control and a strong navy (Mahan, 1890), a thesis which spurred America into more expansionist ambitions and its subsequent attainment of global power status, the South China Sea is a conduit that coalesce Indian Ocean and Western Pacific where more than half of world trade and commerce takes place. He who controls South China Sea controls the Sea Lane of Communications. Aside its significance as a transportation hub of world trade, it is rich in natural resources: containing species of aquatic lives, oil reserves worth seven billion barrels with an estimated nine hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This is an opportunity to dominate globally for China.

Major Powers believe that one of the surest ways, if not the surest, to dictate the tempo of global politics is through territorial acquisitions and China’s is no different. Realism will always provide insights into the nuances in which states play their role as players in the international system, to China, the interest is to dominate globally, even if it matters appropriating territories to itself.

2.3. Territorial Acquisitions and their Strategic Significance to States’ Power Boosts

Under this heading, attempts will be made to explain territorial acquisitions by states and how these territories have boosted the power of the states concerned. As Brian Taylor rightly observes, that the bases for such acquisitions might range from treaties, geography, economy, culture, effective control, history, uti possidetis, elitism to ideology (Brian, 2004).

Besides, due to the multiplicity of cases of territorial acquisitions and occupation, the thesis chooses to examine three states: Israel (Golan Heights, Sinai Peninsula, West Bank and Gaza Strip); United States of America (Louisiana and Alaska) and Russia (Crimea). The choice is deliberate: first, the three are major players in international system. Second, with the exception of U.S, Russia and Israel seek to globally dominate just as China and the analysis of the territories they acquired will assist us to make comparison. Third, U.S is an example of a global state, analysis of its growth will make the analysis of China’s claims in South China Sea much appreciated. Moreover, some of these territories are still contentious just as South China Sea.

The Golan Heights

The Golan Heights are mountainous regions comprising about 1,800 square kilometers bordering Israel and Syria. Israel captured the territory after the Six-Day War in 1967 (Dunstan, 2009). Historically, it was part of Ottoman Empire and after the World War I; the Golan Heights became part of the French mandate in Syria. The Golan Heights contains three

Map 1: Showing Israeli’s Acquired Territories

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Garvet, (2015)

springs in its Jordan River: the Dan Spring under British mandate which was later transferred to Palestine in 1924 (Glassner & Fahrer, 2004), Banias and Wazzani Springs, which fell under the French Mandate of Syria, which was later transferred to Syria upon independence in 1994 (Marshall, 2002). As a result of changed boundaries in the Golan Heights, an aftermath of the 1940-1945 Arab- Israeli War, tension grew between Syria and Israel that led to the Six-Day War as each state sought to gain tactical advantages in the landscape (Ma’oz, 1995). The region fell under Israel administration as a result of the hostile nature of the region. Syria had sought to regain the Golan Heights, especially in Yom Kippur War of 1973 but was attacked by Israeli Army (Marshall, 2002). In 1974, a ceasefire was brokered by both states that left almost all the Heights under Israeli control while returning a narrow demilitarized zone to Syrian control. In 1981, Israel passed Golan Heights law which encompassed the whole territory (Korman, 1996). As of 2004, there were 34 settlements in the region and populated by around 18, 000 people both of Israelis and Syrians. This move by Israel to acquire the Golan attracts criticism from the international community which regards the move as ‘annexation’ and thus, against the UN Charter and Geneva Convention (Garfinkle, 1998).

As Kipnis puts it, the Golan Heights play a crucial role in peace negotiations between Israel and Syria and the political future of the Golan Heights in many aspects affect the stability of the Middle East (Kipnis, 2013)

Strategic Significance of Golan Heights to Israel

The Golan Heights is strategic to Israel in a number of ways. First, the Golan Heights serves as a buffer zone between Israel and Syria. In the past, the Golan Heights was crucial in preventing the penetration of the Arab armies to Israel. Also, the importance of Golan Heights to Israel during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 further testifies the strategic position the territory is to Israel. During the war, the Golan’s topography enabled about 177 defending Israeli tanks to stop approximately 1,500 Syrian tanks and gave the IDF the critical time to call up and deploy its reserve formations (Herzog, 1975). As a sloppy plateau, it affords Syrians, Jordanians and other Israeli neighbours to strike Israel if the territory is not defended. Furthermore, the control of the Golan Heights enhances safety of the strategic Haifa Bay area on the Mediterranean coast by increasing its distance from Syrian position to almost 90km; the bay being an important industrial hub, housing one of the two main Israeli ports and forms a vital triangle strategically alongside Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that holds most of Israeli’s infrastructure and population (Inbar, 2011). Also, Golan Heights acquisition prevents formation of a strong pocket in the narrow strip (about 7 km wide and 26km long) of the upper Galilee, the northernmost part of Israel, an area between Hisballah – controlled southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights (Inbar, 2011). The proximity of Golan to Damascus (just over 60km) serves as deterrence to Syria in which if the Israeli – Syrian border moves westward, it will deny Israel this option and it will be vulnerable to attacks. More so, Israeli’s control of mountain Hermon (about 1,983m high) in the north of Golan provides Israel with important intelligence gathering facilities: it affords Israel the use of electronic surveillance deep into Syria which provides Israel with early- warning capacity in case of attack (Inbar, 2011).


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China and the South China Sea. A quest for dominance in global politics
International Relations
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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967 KB
"A well- researched work. Keep it up" comments by my supervisor Dr. Abutudu, MIM
china, south, ASEAN, South China Sea, DOC, Joint Resource Management
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Ebonine Victor (Author), 2016, China and the South China Sea. A quest for dominance in global politics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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