Muscat, Oman – Asia is the world’s most resource-poor continent in the world. Overexploitation, overpopulation, urbanization, industrialization, resource crunch, decline in crop yields, potential shortage of fresh water supply mainly leading to concerns over resource crisis, environment crisis and climate crisis. China’s emergence as the Asia’s largest economic power, coupled with its ambition to become super power creating disputes with many other Asian countries. China’s strategic aggressions to establish its dominance through sea, land and air could be seen as main factors.
Chinese coastline maps have been elongated since 1950s to show its territorial control. To mark its sovereignty, in 2009 China submitted map to UN marking U-shaped line as legitimate maritime boundary. Its territorial claims in the South China Sea causing tensions with Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia. Lack of capabilities of these countries to match naval military and coast guard assets of China, coupled with US declaration not to take territorial claims in the South China Sea, are helping China to show its muscle. The dispute with Japan over conflicting claims to Senkaku islands is associated with its rich hydrocarbon reserves. In May this year China deployed its Oil Rig near the Paracel island in the South Sea. Vietnam protested, determined to defend its sovereignty and sent patrol ships to disrupt drilling operations.
After two months drilling operations the rig was withdrawn. China claimed withdrawal was because typhoon season was beginning and the work had been completed- not due to protests of Vietnam which triggered near break down in ties. China is also reaching out to the Arctic. It has already expressed interest to develop multimillion dollar iron ore mines in Nuuk in Greenland. Unexploited oil and natural gas reserves located under the seabed of the Arctic, Iceland has become targeted location for China. Ocean transport between Asia and Europe, through polar sea route would reduce cost by 40% as compared to existing route via Suez Canal. Hence Iceland has become gateway and strategic importance for China and discussing bilateral free trade agreement.
China’s fears that hostile naval forces might disrupt oil import and hinder its economy, it has planned strategic corridors. One such corridor is 800 km railroad and highway route from Bay of Bengal coast in Myanmar to remote interior province Yunnan in China- making possible outlet to the sea directly. Another notable corridor is connecting Xinjiang province through Karakoram mountains to Chinese operated Gwadar port in Pakistan. China is at the geographical hub of Asia, sharing land and sea borders with 20 countries. It is the source of trans-boundary river flows to more countries than any other nation. It has focused its dam building program on international rivers, to maintain its strategic grip on trans-boundary river flows.
The Salween river which flows from Tibet into Burma and Thailand will cease to be Asia’s last large free-flowing river after completion of the giant Songta Dam project. New dam projects on the Brahmaputra river passing through northeastern India and Bangladesh will harm flow of water in downstream. Through these mega-dam projects, China is seeking to control over river waters before they cross its borders. This issue of water has added new dimension to Sino-Indian relationship.
China announced new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) covering most of the East China Sea, with air traffic restrictions in November 2013. The area overlaps with half of the Japanese ADIZ including Shenkaku islands, also partially with Korean and Taiwanese ADIZ. Incidentally Japan’s ADIZ was created by the US during post world war II occupation of Japan and was transferred in 1969. South Korea’s ADIZ was established in 1951 during the Korean war. These countries protested China’s unilateral acts and demanded status quo. No doubt such acts of China triggered disputes.
Globally Sino-Russian relationship has reached to an unprecedented degree of warmth. China sees Russia as Strategic partner, perhaps a base. While Russia’s escalating rivalry with the US encourages China, Russia on the other hand welcomes Sino-American competition. China and India have several border disputes which remained unresolved even after brief war fought in 1962. Incursions by Chinese troops in recent months into the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh causing concerns over diplomatic relations between two countries. Both countries are showing restraints and are keen to give priority to economic cooperation and bilateral trade which stood over $56 billion in 2012.
India presently being 3rd largest Asian economy with potential to become global economic power will have to maintain balancing acts with China, Russia and USA. It will have to resolve border issues, trade imbalance and attract Chinese investment. Recent BRICS summit has formally launched BRICS Development bank with equal role by all five countries may prove to be good platform.