Monday, August 30, 2010
Do You Have a Flag?
I recently wrote a few posts back about the developing problem of territorial claims in the South China Sea. Well, it just keeps getting more interesting and for those of you outside the Asia Pacific region, you should keep reading for two reasons:
1) Conflict in this region will probably affect the world on a near global scale
2) Because as a Beyond the Pale reader you will be much more informed and be able to impress your friends at dinner parties when the topic comes up
Anyhow, a Chinese scientific submarine, exploring unknown terrain at a depth of 3,700 meters in the South China Sea, planted a national flag before returning to the surface.
Now, that in and of itself is not a big deal. The Americans left their national flag on the moon when they made their voyages there in the 60's and 70's. Obviously, it was not a territorial claim but a statement of achievement declaring, "We were here!"
If that were the Chinese submarine's motive, it would be understandable. I mean descending to over 10,000 feet is a huge achievement, and if it were me, I would want to leave a memento.
(Eddie Izzard explains the strategic use of flags!)
However, given the political climate in the South China Sea the last few weeks, the quote in the Hong Kong newspaper by Zhao Junhai, the submarine's engineer, that, "It might provoke some countries but...the South China Sea belongs to China. Lets see who dares to challenge that" might not be the best public statement to calm the situation.
This foreign relations mastermind goes on to say, "The closer to the Philippines, the deeper the sea. We'll put down national flags all the way until we reach their border, and then we'll go beyond and aim for the Mariana Trench."
The South China Sea is a vital economic conduit for the Asia-Pacific region and over half the cargo shipped by sea last year went through it at some point. It is perhaps better if Mr. Zhao not speak so much and that the countries in the region work with China for the mutual benefit of all.