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Rock or Island? Disputes in the South China Sea

March 7, 2017 3:22 PM
By Merlene Emerson in Lib Dem Voice on 6 March

South China Sea mapWhilst researching this subject, I couldn't help thinking that here were the ingredients ripe for the design of a board game. It could be something of a cross between "Diplomacy" and "Vendée Globe"?

Each player representing a country of choice could set its mission and collaborate with other players to achieve their desired outcomes. Chance cards might include whether, say, an international tribunal has decided in their favour. And tokens could be earned along the way to enable them to reclaim rocks and reefs, build air strips or even patrol the islands with clone submarines?

We are, of course, not speaking of a game but of what is happening in reality, and the countries involved in a potential war game include South East Asian countries (such as Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) and also greater powers such as China (Taiwan) and the US. At stake are the rights to valuable resources such as oil and gas, fishing rights and the protection of vital sea routes.

Fortunately we have a panel of experts speaking at a forum on 13 March (at the National Liberal Club) to guide us through the quagmire, to understand the historical claims on sovereignty, as well as the international maritime law as affecting territory and maritime claims:

  • Bill Hayton, author of the book "The South China Sea"
  • Professor Steven Tsang from SOAS
  • Veerle Nouwens from RUSI (Royal United Services Institute)

Representatives from various Embassies may also be attending.

What we, the organisers (Liberal International British Group) are hoping to achieve from the forum discussion is firstly to raise awareness of the issues and conflicting claims. The countries involved may be on the other side of the globe but any acts of aggression could nevertheless have a huge impact on global economy. Secondly, and more importantly, we would like to facilitate a fruitful discussion so as to find our way towards a peaceful resolution, and a win for all parties concerned.

This may not be a game, but game theory may ultimately have a part to play.

The LIBG forum is free to attend. RSVP to info@libg.co.uk