The contest for the control of South China Sea started long ago, soon after the Second World War was over. But now it taking some form as an International Tribunal ruled against China’s claims but China remains adamant on its views.
Many things happened in the last six decades or so before this development took place. China being a trade partner with US for many decades is now finding that its relationship (with US) is strained. As China sponsored economically, its ambitions to become a global superpower had led to spend more on defense. It accumulated lots of weaponry which is giving a sense of confidence for it to say no to big brothers of this world. Going by U.N convention’s of 200 nautical miles limit on the sea water control, China is into the waters belonging to Vietnam and Philippines. But the mighty China has already built artificial islands in the disputed region. And it seems to have plans to develop into a marine base. Any one coming closer gets pushed out. See the below image wherein China coast guard pumps water cannon on Vietnamese ship.
Strategy of domination being a big and mean guy would have worked in other continents like Africa. But China is surrounded with neighbors who can challenge it. And that began diplomatically with the International tribunal rejecting China’s claims. While China does not accept it and goes on to prove its might, you know it will become a power show. While no one knows when and if the war will breakout, there are enough signs and there are preparations going on to face one if it occurs.
While China may get support from some its war longing friends, it still has to fight alone in the sea waters due to geographical barriers. Though countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia might not have the capability face China on their own but in the eventuality of a war, they would be led by US along with help from Japan and India. All countries in the geographic range from Japan to India may pose a defense to China’s moves.
If diplomacy fails, war will become imminent. If China loses it which would reduce China’s aggression and its economic progress will be undone to some extent. If China proves it’s right on the disputed sea waters, there begins a new era in the world with US taking a back step.
Going by history and what is at stake, it seems China may not have much to win, it would pay a higher price than the benefits of getting those tiny islands into her lap. But now it is in no mood to listen. It is not just for islands but to prove the world dominance. So I say a war seems to be on the horizon.