Professor Aileen Baviera of the UP Asian Center wrote an article, “Power Shift and the South China Sea: Questions for the Philippines.” The article examines the shifting power struggles in the South China Sea and presents the uncertainties and challenges ahead for a country like the Philippines.
The U.S. will defend its primacy, no doubt, and China’s influence will erode that primacy, it is assumed. That this competition will be played out in the oceans has been clear since the time of Mahan and Mackinder. The fact that it already started several years ago, or that the immediate theater is the South China Sea, is still sometimes lost to many of us here in the Philippines, who see the West Philippine Sea only as fishing grounds and potential oil and gas fields. Some years ahead, Sino-American competition may play out in cyberspace, in the Arctic, in outer space even. For now, though, the South China Sea and nearby maritime spaces that connect to it through navigational sealanes remain important. Therefore, the Philippines and the role that it chooses to play now or in the future continue to be important...
During his first visits to Asia and at the ASEAN and East Asia Summits, Trump emphasized the concept of Indo-Pacific, zeroed in on the North Korean nuclear threat, and also focused on bilateral trade and the need to cut American trade deficits. Significantly, he made no mention of the South China Sea. Some interpret this to mean that to the extent that China still plays a crucial role in North Korean denuclearization, then Trump will not want to confront or press it on the South China Sea issue, or even the East China Sea and Yellow Sea where China, too, has outstanding territorial and maritime disputes. On the other hand, what is “Indo-Pacific” if not the vast maritime reaches that connect the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean on the west and to the East China Sea and the Pacific to the east? It is the same maritime theatre of geostrategic competition between the U.S. and China, writ large.
Such scenarios of uncertainty, competition and impending conflict arising from power transitions are ones we acknowledge as possibilities. This is not because we relish the prospects, but because they need to be prevented; the kinds of conditions that lead the region closer to conflict must be managed, managed well, and managed collectively by states and peoples whose choices today will spell what kind of future our next generations can look forward to.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Aileen SP. Baviera is Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman. She specializes on and writes about contemporary China studies, China-Southeast Asia relations, Asia-Pacific security, territorial and maritime disputes, and regional integration. The editor in chief of the journal, "Asian Politics & Policy," she is the author of many academic publications, including the "The Domestic Mediations of China's Influence in the Philippines," which appears in Rising China's Influence in Developing Asia, edited by Evelyn Goh and published by Oxford University Press. She completed her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of the Philippines Diliman. VIEW FULL PROFILE.
The UP Asian Center offers M.A. degrees in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D. program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Get an overview of these programs. The Asian Center also houses a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia. It has published several books and monographs, and hosts or organizes various lectures and conferences.