Understanding the South China Sea

Historical Truths and Lies: Scarborough Shoal in Ancient Maps

This essay offers a thoughtful review from the Philippine point of view of the history of territorial claims in the South China Sea. The site, from the Institute of Maritime and Ocean Affairs, was built around a 2014 lecture by Senior Associate Justice Antonio C. Carpio of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

The Philippines is not a neutral arbiter in the issues surrounding the South China Sea, and even the nation’s Supreme Court is not above nationalistic impulses. Source notwithstanding, the depth of the site demonstrates that the arguments against China’s claims cannot be as casually dismissed as Beijing might wish.

So many books

When we can, we should read for quality’s sake: savoring every book, re-reading the ones that enchant us most. Yet at the same time, not every essential read is worth savoring. Speed reading is useful for the accumulation of necessary knowledge. Slow reading is essential for the appreciation of written beauty. Perhaps our best reading choices lie at the junction of quality and quantity: we can speed read tedious or secondary works, then slowly absorb the masterpieces worth relishing.

via George Vanderbilt & The Reading of Many Books | The American Conservative.

WAPO: Japan has a flag problem, too

Japan has a flag problem, too – The Washington Post.

I have long wondered about Japan flying the rising sun flag on its warships. It always struck me as a near-deliberate provocation, and an oversight that the Maritime Self Defense Force would still fly it, especially now that they are flying on Japan’s new mini-aircraft carrier helicopter destroyer.

Japan has a flag problem, too - The Washington Post

 

I would wager that Japan will hold fast on continuing to use the Rising Sun flag as a naval ensign, just as it will continue to use the angry red meatball on the wings of its planes. The nation is embarking on a new era, one that will see it bearing a greater part of its defense burden than anytime in 70 years, thanks to a rising China and US empire fatigue.

The time to have asked Japan to dump the Rising Sun would have been 40 years ago. Now that the nation is rekindling its martial roots, don’t bet on them dropping what little of its military heritage is left.

 

Beijing’s Belgrade Syndrome

China Matters: How It All Began: The Belgrade Embassy Bombing.

This is a superb post, and well worth the read. I do agree that we in the United States – including most of our leaders in Washington – underestimate the psychological impact that the bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade had in certain quarters in Beijing. Nor do we realize, I think, the degree to which this shifted a modicum of power and credibility to the People’s Liberation Army.

That said, to suggest that the Belgrade bombing was the origin point of China’s grand strategy is to overstate, if not ignore history. The plans and doctrine that form the basis of China’s grand strategy were set in motion (at the latest) with the accession of Deng Xiaoping, and more likely traces its roots back to the Zhou Enlai’s Four Modernizations. (Defense, for those who will recall, was the fourth modernization, after agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology.)

China has been on this general course for decades. Have specific goals and force structure evolved as they adapted to new circumstances and opportunities? Certainly. But the tune China is playing today was first set on paper fifty years ago.