China and Its Southern Neighbors


In recent years, China has shared a tumultuous relationship with its southern neighbors, according to those neighbors. To the south lies India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia. To the west lies Japan. Among these countries, there is a growing concern over China’s ascent on not only the economic world stage, but also their investments in countries such as the Philippines and Taiwan. The latter is considered by China to be an integral part of China’s future and political dynasty. The military in the Philippines have conducted military practices and also announced their plans to hold onto their sovereignty. This event is likely to stir anger in the Chinese government, for which the Philippines said they were prepared for “all possible consequences.”

China’s power is growing, and to many, it looks like they are cashing it out to expand their interests. Late last year, China began occupying the Senkaku Islands with naval fleets, which Japan has claimed sovereignty over for centuries. They announced that they were effectively taking it from Japan, and all air traffic above the islands in the direction of mainland China had to first be cleared by air traffic controllers, as well as the government. From Japan’s perspective, as well as the United States’s, who is a major stakeholder in the region, the action was seen as a major escalation. Since then, the United States and Japan have conducted fly-overs across the Senkaku Islands as a response to China’s aggression. The reason why the United States is so invested in Japan’s safety is because of a security pact they signed after World War II, which stipulates that in the event of an attack on Japan, the U.S. must help defend their interests.

To the south, where Taiwan and other island nations are located, the concern against China and its relationship with their southern neighbors is growing, according to civilians who have talked publicly about the country. For many years, Taiwan was controlled by both Japan and China, and only in recent years has the country developed on its own. However, China and Taiwan signed a trade deal earlier this month. This event set off a spate of student protests, drawing in over 100,000 protesters. Many in the country are wary of the deal, and are scared that China will escalate their recent actions and colonize Taiwan, which many Taiwanese say they consider a major set back in their independence.

Also grappling with their independence is the Philippines. The country has deployed boots on the ground in their own country, saying that they will protect their sovereignty at any cost, and are prepared for the consequences of that. China reacted to the act by saying the Philippines were intentionally stoking old tensions. However, the Philippine narrative is among a pattern of growing concern for China’s power.

No matter what China’s intentions are, the country is rapidly starting to look more and more like a hegemony, according to its southern neighbors. China’s aggression and expansion draw an eerie parallel to the United States in the very early Nineteenth century. As the 13 colonies became states, and those 13 spiraled into the 50 that the world knows today, the U.S. had to push out Spanish empires, European colonies in the south and the island nations such as Haiti, and Native Americans and Mexicans. This expansion is widely known by scholars as hegemony, wherein political power is defined by geographical control. Today, in 2014, the world is seeing a similar phenomenon occur in China. On Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott invited China’s military and the president Xi Jinping to train and perform military exercises in the country. The two countries are also presumed to hold bilateral talks in Australia in November, right before the G20 Summit.

Opinion by Tyler Collins

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