By: Elena Grace Flores
More than merely about the sovereignty over the rocks and reefs or the actual waters, the South China Sea dispute has become a testing ground for a rising China to challenge the U.S.’s leadership in the Asian strategic order, analysts say.
Beijing wants to use the recently concluded dispute to show how “China’s own growing maritime power and its economic significance to the United States and the global economy have reached the point where the United States can no longer afford to stand up to China,” said Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at The Australian National University. “That calculation might prove to be wrong”; he said.
It has insisted that bilateral talks between Beijing and other claimants are the only way to address the dispute.
Some experts have speculated that China could respond to an unfavorable ruling by establishing an air defense identification zone over all or part of the South China Sea. There is similar speculation that China might militarize a reef off the Philippine coast, the Scarborough Shoal, where a standoff with China prompted the Philippines to initiate the tribunal case in 2013. Beijing has given no direct indication of a tougher response, saying it remains committed to bilateral negotiations with Manila.
The Philippines talks with China and the U.S. can spare them from the rivalry but after the arbitration ruling favored the Philippines, known as an “award,” was dismissed by China, mounting calls to observe international law were lodged at them returning it’s fury on why the Philippine’s previous administration filed the complaint in the first place.Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said that now is the chance to determine whether the region’s future will be defined by adherence to international laws or by “raw calculations of power.”