After a period of relative peace and quiet, a geopolitical storm is once again brewing in the South China Sea. This time, it’s a double-header: a small tussle between China and Malaysia, and a seriously big tussle between China and the Philippines.
The South China Sea is one of the most heavily trafficked sea lanes in the entire world. However, the conditions that make it so valuable – namely, its location on the coasts of a significant number of Asian countries – have led to major territorial tensions over ownership, rights and tenure. This vast, overlapping area of the Pacific is currently claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China, which has the largest claim in the South China Sea and has historically been (and continues to be) more aggressive in its stance, with an ever-expanding military presence in the sea, has become agitated. There is no shortage Political unrest in the region. Beijing claims sovereignty over 90 percent of the South China Sea – using a demarcation it has labeled the „nine-dash line” that cuts through the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. As a result, geopolitical battles over rights to the sea are no exception.
Earlier this year, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim took office First official visit to China, officials have pointedly questioned Malaysia’s exploration activities in what it has designated as China’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. In an unsurprising twist, Ibrahim said the water actually belongs to Malaysia and „so Petronas will continue its exploration activities there”. According to Reporting By Al Jazeera, „Even as Anwar looks to deepen Sino-Malaysian ties, the exchange highlights Beijing’s efforts to pressure Kuala Lumpur not to exploit energy resources it controls, analysts say.”
Now, a couple of months later, China has again made headlines for its threats and threats in the South China Sea, but this time Beijing’s adversary is the Philippines. On the face of it, the argument between Xi Jinping’s China and Ferdinand Marcos’ Philippines is about fishing rights. It all started in late April The Philippines has publicly accused Philippine Coast Guard China’s Coast Guard engages in „dangerous maneuvers” and „aggressive tactics” to threaten Philippine-controlled waters. According to Reuters, the second alleged incident took place in fishing waters off Thomas Shoal, „a flashpoint for previous conflicts located 105 nautical miles (195 km) off its coast”.
However, according to a new report this week, the fights between the Philippines, Malaysia and China aren’t really about fishing or oil exploration — instead, it’s a war.”The Secret War to Control the Internet„Indeed, many of the recent actions in the South China Sea seem too militarized and too large for a simple fishing disagreement. In April of this year, the US and the Philippines conducted The biggest military exercise ever Continue in the South China Sea Plans for even bigger military exercises From China and Singapore.
As The Hill reports, „Big data is the biggest economic asset up for grabs in the region — and the future of the entire Internet depends on who wins the battle to dominate this strategic waterway.” A key feature of the battle was underwater cables. More than 99% of all international Internet traffic is carried over such submarine cables, which are largely controlled by a handful of major tech companies in the U.S. „namely Google-owned Alphabet, Facebook-owned Meta, Amazon and Microsoft.” As the internet economy takes off in Asia – it is expected Other economic powers now want a piece of that pie – to hit $1 trillion by 2030. Whoever controls the cables that run through the South China Sea will have a huge claim to that $1 trillion.
In other words, don’t expect any rough ceasefire in the South China Sea anytime soon.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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