The current standoff between China and the US over the South China Sea could lead to war.
The territorial dispute surrounding islands in the South China Sea has gone on for decades, and includes the Paracels, the Spratlys, and Scarborough Shoal. The groups of islands are contested by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. The US, for its part, cannot directly contest China’s claims with sovereignty counterclaims, but has involved itself in the dispute under the guise of protecting its allies.
Last month, the United States accused China of militarizing the South China Sea by placing anti-aircraft missile systems, advanced radar and jet fighters on Woody Island, thereby ostensibly expanding Beijing’s control of sea territories through which nearly a third of global trade passes. With Washington suggesting that the move would “raise further tensions in the region,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded by stressing that Beijing has every right to maintain defensive military systems within its own territory.
At the conference, Fu emphasized that “Chinese-Russian relations are at their best stage in history,” adding that their further “development will be sound as they meet our mutual interests.” Beijing and Moscow, she noted, do not have any serious disputes between them, “do not exert pressure on each other,” and “can fully concentrate on discussing cooperation, as well as the exchange of ideas.”
The spokeswoman’s words, Ivanov suggested, indicate that “it’s possible that China is engaging in a more assertive policy in the Pacific precisely because it counts on the support of our country.”
Asked to comment on the situation in the South China Sea, Mikhail Alexandrov, the head expert at the Center for Military and Political Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told Svobodnaya Pressa that the processes taking place in the region are taking place according to the laws of geopolitics.
“A reconfiguration of forces is taking place around the world. The strength of power centers independent from the West, among them Russia, China, India, Iran and Brazil, is growing. And the United States can no longer control the entire planet. Once they get involved in some kind of confrontation with any one power center, the others take the opportunity to spread their influence.”
“What can the US do? Provoke a confrontation? Any collision with the Chinese would not be a cakewalk for the Americans. China now has enough strength to repel the attack of two or three [carrier-based US] aviation groups. Moscow could give the Chinese sea-based cruise missiles. So a US victory in a sea battle cannot be assured. And if the Americans lose, or even tie, US hegemony around the world would collapse like a house of cards. Therefore, Washington is taking a serious risk, and they know it.”
China, in the analyst’s words, has yet to achieve military parity with the Western alliance, “but as far as a naval battle on its shores goes, China can win. Moreover, the Chinese military has been equipped with new submarines, new aircraft, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles to attack carrier groups. In other words, China is well armed for this kind of battle.”
“We had long proposed to the Americans that they leave the post-Soviet space alone. We have long said ‘leave us alone in the [former Soviet] space, and we will not bother you elsewhere around the world.’ But Washington cannot agree to this: they want to be present all over the world. Except their ammunition does not match their ambitions.”
Asked what role, if any, Moscow might play in the ongoing US-Chinese drama, the analyst emphasized that China is already receiving Russian support. “Russia is the only country selling modern weapons technology to the Chinese. Were it not for Russian assistance, China would be lagging significantly behind the West’s aircraft and cruise missiles.”
Furthermore, “Russia and China have a treaty of friendship and cooperation, in which there is an article on consultations in the case of a threat to one country. And in the case of conflict with the United States, Russia may provide assistance to China; the treaty allows for such an eventuality.”