Philippine territorial dispute (ASEAN projection)


Generally, the establishment of regional cooperation already started during Post-World War II era, since as we know that after there were so many bloody wars that already happened, almost all states around the world were beginning to recognize that it is really important for them to put specific components on their economic, political and security affairs inside their own regional and geographic context. That is why at that time (especially after the end of World War II), all regional agencies or regional arrangements started to become the biggest important player in International Relations which has major roles in order to maintain international peace and its stability in almost every aspects. And this statement had been agreed by United Nations through the UN Charter which said that all of its member states are being advised to solve all of their settle disputes through regional agencies or arrangements before they are going to bring the case into the Security Council and also to not taking any kinds of decision related to military enforcement actions without authorization of Security Council itself.[1] But, as we can see, based on the fact that already happened, during post-1945period (during Cold War era) the establishment of wide variety of regional corporations did not operate well based on the draft of UN Charter had been stated before. Instead, some of those regional arrangements mostly doing alliances with the Great Powers during this era, where those Great Powers were coming from the winner of World War II, which are from United States and Soviet Union or USSR (these regional arrangements at that time defined themselves as set of collective defense arrangements). And this kind of regional arrangement was being established because of the condition during Cold War where there was ideological confrontation between the United States and Soviet Union at that time that triggering almost some developing states around the world to do bandwagon system in order to balancing their power with their rival states because of the threats that they are receiving in order to maintain or stabilizing security conditions within their states. This associated defense and security policies obviously preventing UN’s ability itself to fulfill its potential mandate which had been stated on the Charter before.

We can take simple case in South East Asia during Cold War era within the establishment of ASEAN. In this case, we will take a look based on Constructivism school of thought in International Relations field. Constructively, the establishment of ASEAN started first from the emergence of SEATO (South East Asia Collective Defense Treaty Organization) which resulted Manila Pact in order to maintain stability of South East Asia region during Cold War era because of ideological confrontation between US which holding capitalism and democracy with USSR which holding communism. After that, there was The Bandung Conference in 1955 joined with African states as a form of Nonalignment with US or Soviet Union that resulted in Asia Africa Conference and Dasasila Bandung as a Non-Block Movement. After that, in 1967, ASEAN had been established by representatives of 5 member states from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippine which afterwards other 5 states following to join with ASEAN as well until today where ASEAN will integrate through AEC in 2015 later. Based on its historical process, it is obvious that in our opinion, before ASEAN had been established, when SEATO was taking place in South East Asia, the truth is that this regional organization was as a form of alliance with US especially in order to prevent communism spread into South East Asia region after China became communist country under Mao Zedong authority because of domino theory that US President stated before, even after the establishment of ASEAN. This is of course against what UN Charter had stated before about what is actually the role of regional organizations should have to be. The table below is showing historical process of ASEAN establishment constructively.

Year Historical Process of ASEAN
1954 US Containment / proxy power SEATO (South East Asia Collective Defense Treaty Organization) / Manila Pact
1955 The Bandung Conference and Nonalignment as alternative basis-cold war-friendly cooperation
1967 ASEAN establishment where Integration is as Shared Ideas
1972 ZOPFAN establishment as the first security organization about proliferation of the usage of nuclear weapon (WMD)
1976 TAC (Treaty of Amity Cooperation) establishment
1986 Brunei joined with ASEAN
1994 ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) establishment
1997 CLMV establishment about Great Mekong Cooperation
2002 Bali Concord
2008 ASEAN Charter was established
2011 GAC establishment
2015 ASEAN integrity through ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)

Based on what had been explained before, Constructivist thought that the culture of anarchy within international system is basically shaped by state itself through its social interactions with other states that eventually will lead these states inevitably to involve with soft-peaceful solution through cooperation which then there will be security dilemma that these states had been facing within certain cases and in the end the norms or values within the organization will be useless for them and instead beginning to form alliances with external powers in order to balancing their powers with the rival states. In this case, we explain about historical process within regional organization by using constructivism because most of regional arrangements after post-Cold War era, they are shifting the system into cooperative security where even though there are still so many intrastate conflicts within the region, they will put those cases aside or hiding it during the dialogue with its members and instead just focusing more on their economic interests based on the value of no intervention and dialogue as peace resolution. And based on what is happening nowadays, it will be a challenge for some of regional arrangements, especially for South East Asia members through ASEAN to shift its regional arrangements from cooperative security turn into collective defense because of the security dilemma that certain members had been experiencing from certain cases that related to territorial dispute as had been mentioned before. Eventually the condition or situation within the regional organization can be explained based on Neo-Realism school of thought, since some states will make alliances with external powers in order to balancing their power.

Theoretical Framework

Before explaining further about territorial dispute that Philippine faces against China over Second Thomas Shoal in Spratly Island of South China Sea as one simple case related to regional arrangements changing within ASEAN that will be explained later on the study case, we should have to know first on some concepts that related with the case itself. The first important concept is about geography (in terms of Philippine’s geographical potencies which will be explained on the next part) and geopolitics. Basically, geographical potencies that the state always has are region position, natural resources, industry and culture or religion (population). In terms of region position, we can take an example in Singapore, even though it does not have abundant natural resources or large population, it has business to rely on as its national power by using Malacca Strait which near with its position and through sea line, they can do transaction in business easily through their port, that is why Singapore ports are considered as the busiest port in the world. For natural resources also can be seen from Saudi Arabia and other middle east countries which has abundant oil and gas, and they can convert it as their national power. As for industry, it is focusing more into international political economy, when there is a condition from a state related to its export and import. If its import is bigger than its export, then it has problem with its economic condition (include as a weak state), but if it is otherwise, this state has its national power. And the last is from culture and religion (in terms of population), if one state has large population and the government can manage this condition by improving its human resources, then this state has its national power in terms of its large population that has good human resources (e.g. China).

As for geopolitics, it has a linkage also with strategic environment itself and geo-strategic projection. Geopolitics, in general, can be defined as human perspective towards geographical feature of some places which have important values for them, while in the aspect of state as a main actor in international relations, can be defined as a decision or a policy of a state with another state to get over something (a place) which is really important for achieving what they think is important (can also included as national interests or ends of certain states). With this geopolitics policy, politics and military developments are being conducted and being influenced or influencing those states after they know about the important value of a place that they want to take over, which then defined as the strategy value of certain states and after that it will become a national security within those states. As for political development, for instance is like doing diplomacy and negotiation or another political decision towards this place, and then those states will put their military equipments in some spots that close to this place.

Next is the concept of regional arrangements itself. On the previous section we had explained briefly about the changing of regional arrangements within regional organizations or institutions during post-World War II until Global Politics today, especially in South East Asia region. As for regional arrangements itself, practically security arrangements within regional organization can be clustered into four categories, where each category is reflecting different form of mutually perceived security dilemma and eventually resulting into different forms of security practices and regional institutional arrangements. However, we will just take two concepts of regional arrangements within this case, they are collective defense and cooperative security. The first security arrangement is collective defense. Collective defense is created by states who want to emerge a regional organization because of security dilemma that they are experiencing, and this kind of arrangement basically coming from defense and military aspects. In order to solve this dilemma, they are starting to conduct formation of alliance, since it is really obvious that the threat that they are receiving is clear enough (defined perceived adversary). Regarding to Stephen Waltz statement, security dilemma itself is happening because of balance of threat that certain states are getting on, which means that when a state is giving threat to another country, this country will pass back the threat through its foreign policy as its reaction. And the last one is cooperative security, where this security arrangement is creating dialogue about security by establishing security community (as institutional mechanism). It can be improved through CBM (Confidence Building Measurement) with permanent infrastructure or office (e.g. ASEAN).[1]

Then, the next concept is about balance of threat (as continuation of security dilemma concept that had been mentioned briefly before on types of security arrangement within a regional organization). For balance of threat itself, like what had been mentioned before, is as the result coming from security dilemma that states are facing over certain cases that will threaten sovereignty of these states (pose threat to their national independence). As the continuation of this theory stated by Stephen Waltz, there are some factors that triggering the appearance of balance of threat within one state over another state within regional organization. The first is from aggregate power, which means that the bigger or the greater the capability of state’s total resources (e.g. military capability, population, social solidarity, industrial and technological development), the more the potential threat will occur that it can pose to other states. Second one is geographic proximity. It means that state which has big powers where the location is nearby obviously will pose big threats towards its neighbors rather than other big powers which are far away based on the location. Third is offensive power, which means that states which have big offensive capabilities of course will pose a greater threat rather than states which has defensive capabilities. And the last factor is from aggressive intentions. States, which are considering as aggressive states will pose threat either if they are on the same time likely to provoke other states to balance against their rivals.[2] To summarize, regarding to those factors, it will eventually affect the threat level within one state over another where eventually it will make other states to conduct some actions as reaction for balance of threat itself through balancing or bandwagon each other as balance of power where the concept will be explained below.

As for balance of power, it is as conditions of bipolarity that expecting an engagement between two powers in balancing that eventually will produce a balance itself where each is capable of defending its vital interests.[3] To make it simple, balance of power is as a reaction for states (both for great powers and developing states) from condition of balance of threat as had been explained before. This concept is as a suggestion for states to form Alliances in preventing stronger powers from dominating them and on the same time to protect themselves from states or coalitions whose superior resources pose the threat towards their sovereignty (balancing or bandwagon).[4] There are two of three conditions that will be taken when states will tend to conduct a balance or prefer to bandwagon based on the case. The first condition is from power and weaknesses. It explains that the stronger the state, the more it wants to balance rather than bandwagon, however it is different for weak states, if the threat is likely coming from great power, they will prefer to bandwagon instead to balance their powers. And the second is from the availability of allies. When states are threatened by great power, they will choose to bandwagon if they fail to find potential allies which are sharing mutual interests.[5]

The last is about dynamic of politics concept. In this concept, we can see that the nature of international system in International Relations’ field is really anarchy, which means that there is no higher or bigger authorities and powers beside state itself. and with the appearance of international system, it is always resulting polarity among states, especially when states conducting some kind of interactions each other (competition, conflict and cooperation) over certain places that they perceive as strategic place that has strategic value to achieve their national interests. Then, with this condition, there will be security dilemma because of threat that other state’s posing to another state, where in the end there will be formation of alliances with other state that considered as great power or those who have the same power with that state (bandwagon or balancing) and then power cycle will appear within this situation. As for power cycle theory, it explains about evolution of systemic structure via cyclical dynamic of state rise and decline.[6] To make it simple, principles of power cycle is explaining on how absolute power changes within the system can create the rise and decline of states based on their interactions and also could change the structure within international system itself. This concept encompasses both the state and the system in a single dynamic.

ASEAN STUDY CASE : Regional arrangement’s changes from vertical to horizontal over Second Thomas Shoal in ECDA

Based on the geographical context, The Philippines is considered as an archipelago comprising around 7,107 islands with a total land area of 300,000 km2 with its population is around 107 million peoples.[1] The Philippine also lies about 805 km off the southeast coast of Asia (its overall land area is comparable with Arizona, which only 7% of the islands are larger than one square mile and only one-third have names).[2] The 11 largest islands are containing 94% of the total land area, where there are about 1000 of its islands inhabited, and less than one-half of these islands are larger than 2,5 km2. The Philippine is located between Taiwan and Borneo, where the archipelago is being divided into three island groups. The first one is Luzon which containing Luzon island itself, Palawan, Mindoro, Marinduque, Masbate and Batanes islands. Second one is Visayas where the groups of its islands in central Philippines that containing Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte and Samar. The last one is Mindanao which containing Mindanao itself and the Sulu archipelago. As a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Philippine islands are mostly volcanic in origin and also mountainous, where those volcanoes within the country are active.[3]


In terms of its economy, Philippine is as the 4th largest economy in South East Asia and the 36th largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity based on the data from IMF in 2009. Most of its industries are located in urban areas around Metro Manila, while on the same time Metro Cebu also is considered as an attraction for both foreigner and local investors. Being a newly industrialized nation, even though its economy still focus more on agricultural sector, industrial sectors based on manufacturing of electronics and other high-tech components are also started to appear and dominating the country itself such as like Intel, Texas Instrument and Printer manufacturer Lexmark. Also, since the Philippine is rich in both mineral and geothermal energy resources, it is categorized as the second country for electricity production from geothermal sources after United States.[1] Based on the brief explanation of Philippine geographical context, it is obvious that the national power that Philippine has in order to conduct its geopolitics on Second Thomas Shoal will be possible in order to get its claims over the shoal. As we can see, since Philippine is categorized as an archipelago country (has same geographic condition on terms of its extensive land, has lots of mountain area and crowded in terms of its population), with big population and high level of education it will be possible for its decision maker to increase its human resources with the support from its economic growth in order to claim and protect the shoal from any kinds of interference, especially from outside of ASEAN territories like China. Therefore, the national power that Philippine has based on its geographical context are from its region condition, population and its industries (its economic growth in export and import).

Next is about geographical context of Second Thomas Shoal. Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Ayungin Shoal in Philippine, is as an inhabited shoal or atoll in the Spratly group of islands within South China Sea with low tide coral reef that located 105 nautical miles from the Philippine’s Palawan Islands. This shoal has 15 kilometers long and five kilometers wide which is as territorial claim and also military occupy for Philippine (Ayungin Shoal), Vietnam (Bãi Cỏ Mây) and China (Ren’ai Jiao).[2] It is on the same time as the gateway to Reed Bank (another disputed part in South China Sea) where it provides lots of oil and natural gas where until today Philippine stated it as part of its territorial claim to be within 200 mile exclusive economic zone.[3] Philippine already started considering Second Thomas Shoal as Philippine’s territorial claim since in 1999, where the Philippines navy ran aground the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II era landing transport ship, on the shoal to make its presence towards the island with less than a dozen navy personnel on the 100 meters (330 feet) long as the response for China’s occupation on Mischief Reef after that time. Since then, The Philippine has started serving it as a Philippine base hosting approximately 10 marines. However, even though they already made its presence in the shoal, they still do not have intention to build further infrastructure within the shoal itself. Even the former World War II vessel has begun to ask for President Aquino to instruct the navy for repairing the ships so that the Philippine still can maintain its presence to counter China’s presence there.[4]



Based on the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs statement, they consider Second Thomas Shoal as an integral part of the Philippines and that China should have to go out from that area since under international law (based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), China does not have its right to maintain its presence there anymore (the Chinese still consider that also as part of its territorial claim until today based on its long historical claim on nine dash lines surrounding South China Sea boundaries).[1] As the reaction from Philippine’s statement, Chinese government argued that they have “indisputable sovereignty” over the shoal and that Philippine’s attempts to send supply ships more for intensifying its illegal presence there and occupation on the Ren’ai Reef considered as violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC).[2] Because of some events related to territorial dispute between China and Philippine in some parts of shoal within South China Sea triggering the conflict over Thomas Shoal itself, especially after claim over a standoff at Scarborough Shoal, where resulted in the establishment of permanent structure from China towards the shoal after Beijing violated its oral agreement with Manila to withdraw their vessels from the shoal and preventing Philippine fisherman from returning to the disputed area back. With China’s successful strategy on Scarborough Shoal to counter Philippine’s presence, they started to call for application of successful strategy on Second Thomas Shoal. Chinese Air Force Major General Zhang Zhaozhong stated to propose a “cabbage” strategy to deal with Second Thomas Shoal, where the Chinese will surround the shoal in layers of Chinese ships, with fishing vessels inside the inner layers that would be surrounded by civilian maritime vessels and navy ships in the outer layers.[3] The purpose of this strategy obviously to force the Philippines marines that deployed on the shoal to abandon the grounded vessels for its lack of strategy. If the possibility for this strategy to fail is bigger, the Chinese government would take another approach by towing the BRP Sierra Madre away from the shoal and also blocked two attempts by Philippine ships to resupply the garrison.[4] With these approaches conducted by Chinese government, it would obviously carry potential for conflict considering the presence of armed Philippine marines. Even though other countries within ASEAN beside Philippine also involved on the dispute like Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia, this territorial dispute in fact is only contested by China and The Philippines.


Since there is no other ways to counter China’s presence on the shoal anymore and with China’s excellent capability on maintaining its presence in Second Thomas Shoal through its developed military forces there, Manila asked to start conducting a meeting with ASEAN members and China itself in ASEAN Foreign Minister Meetings for 46th times centered in Brunei in 2013 and followed by ARF that attended at that time also by the foreign ministers of many other ASEAN partner countries. During the meeting, they discussed about economic development of ASEAN countries which will be conducted in 2015, recalled the so-called ASEAN Way as had been enshrined in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia by focusing its point about mutual respect for sovereignty, and settlements of differences and disputes in a peaceful manner. Besides that, they also discussed about tension over Second Thomas Shoal dispute in South China Sea between China and Philippines which all of ASEAN foreign ministers stated to call for dialogues and trust-and confidence-building initiatives, also stressing about the importance of stability and security in the region itself. Even though during the meeting there was also escalated conflict between China and the Philippines over South China Sea at least diplomatically, both the governments were implicitly assuring their regional friends that conducting armed conflicts toward each other could be considered as the last thing on their respective minds. Thus, they were agreeing from China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s suggestion for maritime cooperation between China and ASEAN countries, including the good-use of the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund. Also, he stated to call for the stepping up of Sino-ASEAN cooperation both in defense and security, which for common, both collective and cooperative security, since China is also considered as the major trading partner of ASEAN, including the Philippines, and vice versa (in one time China’s presence can be considered as ASEAN countries’ threat, while on the same time also can be as their mutual friend or as an opportunity for ASEAN to develop their economic growths).[1]

However, after the meeting, it seemed that even though China and the Philippine already agreed to do cooperation as peaceful way for solving the problem, as had been mentioned before, China still insisted to take over its claims on the shoal and on the same time also still blocking Philippine’s vessels for giving its supply there, which means that China already violated the agreement indirectly during the meeting that had been conducted before. Thus, Manila filed a case with the United Nations to bring its territorial dispute with China to a United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) arbitration tribunal, where its action has drawn support from United States, the European Parliament, Japan and Vietnam. However, the result was still the same during the meeting with ASEAN countries foreign minister in ARF, with China’s strong position as permanent member also in UNSC, China strongly opposes multilateral discussion with Philippine’s supporters over the territorial dispute.[2]

Seeing what happens with Philippine, United States then started to take action by helping its long time ally through implementing its defense cooperation in military and defense with the Philippines which called as Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). During the meeting at Camp Aguinaldo, Philippine military headquarters in suburban Quezon city in norther part of Manila, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg discussed with his Filipino partner Voltaire Gazmin regarding to US-Philippines relationship, by reaffirming the 1952-1954 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between these two nations through the establishment of Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which had been signed by US and Philippine leaders in April 28th 2014.[3] The agreement itself is being made for facilitating the enhanced rotational presence of US forces, expand opportunities for training and supports the long-term modernization of the Philippine military, where the goal for US itself is to strengthen Philippine maritime security, enhancing maritime domain awareness and improving humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities.[4] The agreement had been established during US President Barrack Obama’s visit to Philippines, which based on the statement from Philippine’s President Aquino III saying that the US-Philippine security agreement in EDCA is as the implementation from security cooperation turn into a higher level of engagement by ensuring of both countries’ commitment to mutual defense and security. The table below shows about some key points in 10 years defense pact between the US and the Philippines.


Key Points in 10 years Defense Pact between US and Philippine
Clear provision that the US would not establish its military presence and base in Philippines
US access to and use of designated areas in AFP owned and controlled facilities (“Agreed Locations”) will be at the invitation of the Philippine government
US access and use of Agreed Locations may be listed in an annex and further described in implementing arrangements
Philippine retention of primary responsibility for security of the Agreed Locations
Access of the AFP base commander to the entire area of the Agreed Locations
Philippine ownership of buildings and infrastructure once again constructed by US military
Value of prepositioned materiel in the enhancement of AFP defense capabilities and possible transfer of purchase of materiel determined to be excess
Prohibition of bringing out to the Philippines of nuclear weapons and reference to respective obligations of both Parties under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention
Strong commitment from both countries to protect the environment, human health and safety
Preference for Philippine supplier of goods, products and service in the US military procurement
Sharing and joint use of facilities in the Agreed Locations, including those of used by US military
Regular consultation of the implementation of the agreement

Analysis and Discussion

Based on the study case of Second Thomas Shoal territorial dispute between Philippine and China, it can be seen that this shoal is considered as strategic gateway from both countries in order to achieve their national interests, which means that the shoal has strategic value in its richness of both in oil and natural gas in order to achieve the national interest from both Philippines or China. And comparing the national power that both countries have, it can be seen that China is still being a powerful country to take over its claims over the disputed area because of its capability to convert its potential geography to become stronger than other countries, including Philippine itself. Even though Philippine also has its own potential in terms of its geography, as had been mentioned before that the management for improving its military capability (the main aspect in this case) still lower than China itself, where in China’s side, it already improving its military capability by training its navies (in terms of China’s population which categorized as one of crowded country after US and India that is beginning to increase over time with high level of education) and developing its military technology through the establishment of strong and bigger ships for taking care its claims over the shoal. The case had proven that there is a big gap or disparity in terms of China and Philippine’s strategy over the shoal, so it cannot be blamed that the Philippine is still weak for making the shoal as an integral part of its territory. Therefore, from geopolitical side, the Philippine still has no strong capability to convert its geographical potencies into its national power comparing with China which eventually bring security dilemma within the Philippine itself over Second Thomas Shoal that is considered as part of its sovereignty either.

As for the security dilemma that Philippine is facing, it appears because of no other than balance of threat that Philippine gets from China’s side (where as had been mentioned before that balance of threat is as condition where country A is giving threat for country B, the country B will do the same towards the country A or vice versa). We can see from what happen in recent years about the dispute area between China and Philippine in terms of giving supply for the navies of Philippine, where China is still considering the shoal as its part and it attempts to block Philippine navy ships for giving supplies because it violates its DoC. But in fact the Philippine also retaliate on what China had done by keep maintaining its presence there and keep giving supplies there. There are also some threats that Philippine has been giving for China in terms of its presence in the shoal, for instance if China blocks provisions from being delivered to Philippines forces on the shoal, Manila could seek to air drop supplies from a helicopter which eventually resulted in an exchange of fire and potential loss of life. Another threat that comes from the Philippine is if Philippines attempt to build structures there like what China had done in Scarborough shoal, the Chinese would take its opportunity to publicly accusing the Philippines of provocation and commence their “cabbage” strategy or the worst is by towing away the Philippine’s vessels which already stated by Chinese before. Thus, as one of ASEAN members, Philippine began to ask for discussion with the ASEAN foreign ministers in ARF meeting for solving the problem and supporting its presence in the shoal. However, because of its strong presence in ASEAN economically, the possibility for Philippines to get its territorial claims is getting smaller. The threat that Philippine got from China is increasing over time, which also affecting its security dilemma over its sovereignty. Thus, in order to balance its power with its rival, the Philippine agreed to conduct and even implement its defense cooperation with United States, as one of Great Powers in Southeast Asia region by establishing Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The implementation of this agreement though can be seen as a sign for Philippines to counter China’s presence in military aspect (even though the key points that had been mentioned earlier stated to not doing military forces in Agreed Locations, the possibility for US to interference towards disputed area of Philippine and China is bigger for the next years), especially on the next ten years where both the leaders of US and Philippines stated that the further implementation of this agreement will be discussed more at that time. Thus, we argue that for next ten years the tension between China and Philippines over the shoal will get higher than before especially with the interference of US in Philippine through this defense agreement (which later on will be or may be as part of collective security cooperation between Philippine and its supporters that involving within the case with US to counter China, and it is really clear since it had been mentioned from Philippine leader that EDCA is as implementation from cooperation security arrangement (from the establishment of MDT) turn into new and high level of arrangement which later on may be as collective defense cooperation or arrangement. These events can be considered as the evidence of politics of dynamic with China and Philippine’s rights to conquer the Shoal because of their high authority as state actors and lead into competition and conflict for both states in order to achieve their national interest. Because of the threat that Philippine faces is coming from China as great power with high offensive capability (can be seen from its aggressive behavior through making naval presence towards the shoal to counter Philippine) and close neighbor in terms of its geographic proximity eventually lead into formation of allies with United States that categorized as big power also (conducting bandwagon system) by giving supplies in terms of arms or armies through the establishment of EDCA will pose big changes in the international systemic structure for the future. The international systemic structure will shift from just unipolar system from China into bipolar system between China and Philippines (declining of centralization). This kind of condition defines as form of power cycle of China and Philippines on the shoal. Overall, this case already reflecting the condition within ASEAN countries where there will be disintegration from ASEAN values that requires to not doing intervention and solving the problems through ASEAN Way (through peaceful way) and starting to balancing or bandwagon with external powers in order to solving the security dilemma that they are facing from rival states (later on will conduct collective defense arrangement with the external power).


To conclude, security dilemma can appear within the state related to the territorial dispute that it has been facing because of the existence of its rival that has strong power (can be considered as one of Great Powers), especially when this condition can bring threat for its own sovereignty. Thus, in order to solve this condition (since by bringing the case into its own regional cooperation that using cooperative or collective security arrangement, especially with the values of non intervention and democracy that reflecting vertical organization of authority and IGO as the main actors will not solve the security dilemma that state is facing itself) state started to balancing or bandwagon (in this case Philippine is conducting bandwagon with US) with another external powers in order to counter its rival that has the same power through the establishment of collective defense cooperation or arrangement. Therefore, there will be balance of power from both parties.

References :

[1]ASEAN plays positive role amid sea spats” in, accessed on October 22nd, 2014

[2] Ibid. paragraph 7.

[3]What is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and what does it mean for PH?” in, accessed on October 22nd, 2014

[4]U.S. – Philippine Pact Expands Defense Cooperation” in, accessed on October 22nd, 2014

[1]Philippines and China in Dispute Over Reef” in, accessed on October 21st, 2014

[2] Ibid. paragraph 4.

[3] Ibid. paragraph 6.

[4]Philippine ship dodges China blockade to reach South China Sea outspot” in, accessed on October 21st, 2014

[1]Philippine Economy” in, accessed on October 20th, 2014

[2]Sailing Directions – South China Sea” in UK Hydrographic Office

[3]Second Thomas Shoal Likely the Next Flashpoint in the South China Sea” in[tt_news]=41054&tx_ttnews[backPid]=25&cHash=6580ce14cee5ac00501d5439f3ee3632#.VEfGthbolb1, accessed on October 21st, 2014. paragraph 1.

[4] Ibid. paragraph 2,3.

[1]Geography of the Philippines” in, accessed on October 20th, 2014

[2]Philippines” in, accessed on October 20th, 2014

[3]Philippine Islands” in, accessed on October 20th, 2014

[1] Ibid. pg 6,7.

[2] A. H. Abd Alaziz, Alaa. 2003. Balance of Threat Perception and the prospects of NATO Mediterranean Dialogue. University of Helsinki. pg 17,18.

[3]Power vs Threat : Explanations of US Balancing against the Soviet Union after 1976” in, accessed on October 18th, 2014

[4]Balance of Power vs Balance of Threat : The Case of China and Pakistan” in, accessed on October 18th, 2014

[5] Ibid. pg 18.

[6]What is power cycle theory? Introducing the main concepts” in, accessed on November 14th, 2014

[1] L. Job, Brian. ‘Alliances’ and Regional Security Developments : The Role of Regional Arrangements in the UN’s Promotion of Peace and Stability. pg 1.


China’s global influence in Indian Ocean dispute with India

In International Relations, the international system within the field itself always resulting on the appearance of polarity among state actors, where the nature of international system itself based on Realist scholars stated is really anarchy. As for the basic definition of polar itself can be defined as the condition where states, especially for specific state is as the most important actor in the world. When the world is facing conditions that related with war and peace (such as like competition, conflict or cooperation), the international system itself will always appear every time as the result for these kind of conditions among states (war and peace condition). Thus, polarity within the international system is as the best way to recognize the pattern and also to learn the situation in order to achieve their purpose that would be beneficial for states. The general explanation of polarity in international system can be described based on the case of China’s global influence over Indian Ocean dispute with India.

Before elaborating further about this case, there would be brief explanation about geographical potency that Indian Ocean has which considered as strategic value for China and India. Indian Ocean is covering around one-fifth of the total ocean area of the world, where it is considered as the youngest, smallest and on the same time as the most complex of the world’s three major oceans. Indian Ocean is stretching for more than 6200 miles (10,000 km) between the southern tips of Africa and Australia, and has an area around 73,440,000 square kilometers with its average depth is 12,990 feet and its deepest point (around Sunda Deep of the Java Trench off the southern coast of Java Island) is around 24,442 feet. The Indian Ocean itself is bounded by Iran, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh in northern part, Malay Peninsula, Sunda Islands of Indonesia, Australia in eastern part, Antarctica in southern part and to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula to the western part.[1]

In economic aspect, almost all states surrounding the ocean use it regarding to its abundant of natural resources. Based on the research, mineral resources that Indian Ocean has and is being used by some countries that bounded within the ocean is coming from oil with the Persian Gulf is as the largest oil-producing region in the world. The exploration for offshore petroleum and natural gas also has been under way in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, both of which are believed to have large reserves. Other sites of explorations toward Indian Ocean are coming from northwestern coast of Australia, in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Africa south of the Equator, and off the southwestern coast of Madagascar. In case of India, it produces commercial quantities of oil from the offshore areas, where its large proportion of its total production is coming from fields off the coast of Mumbai. With economic development within the littoral countries since in mid-20th centuries, most of them started to involve in trading by establishing or conducting a formation of regional trade blocks which then led to increase in sea trade and the development of new products. Almost all of Indian Ocean states mostly used the ocean in order to export raw materials and import manufactured goods that produced elsewhere. Indian Ocean is becoming an important throughway for transport crude oil and other major commodities like iron, coal, rubber and tea. That is why besides considered as a strategic place for Indian Ocean states based on its natural resources, it also has important role in trade routes among those countries in order to export commodities products from one state to another state.[2]

With strong geographical potency that Indian Ocean has, it makes all of Indian Ocean states to protect the presence of Indian Ocean itself by maintaining their geopolitics strategy inside the ocean, not exception for both China and India. It can be seen from what already happened inside Indian Ocean where those states already conducting their geopolitics and even going to implement their geostrategic in order to maintain their existence there and on the same time to increase the maritime rivalry between two states. The conflict between these two major powers already started since in 1959 in the exile of the Dalai Lama to India, which then followed by 1962 Sino-Indian border war.[3]

The escalation of conflicts between China and India is increasing over time after they are applying their geostrategic projection in Indian Ocean, especially since in 2009 where China’s navy started its operations in order to response the Somali’s piracy. Later on, China then so far has maintained a continuous naval presence in the Gulf of Aden, on a rotating basis, with task forces consisting of two warships and one supply vessels. The warships also are carrying Chinese special force which can provide onboard protection for commercial vessels. On the same time, the steady rise of India on its economic  growth provides it with a growing capacity to play its roles more towards the maritime domain. It can be seen from The Indian navy commenced counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden in 2008 and also it is speeding up its modernization and expansion of its capabilities towards the maritime area, along with recent Indian purchase of twelve P-81 anti-submarine warfare aircraft from United States. This kind of condition obviously will increase security dilemma that had been faced by both countries, since until now there is still an absence of comprehensive multilateral agreement on maritime security in Indian Ocean by both states because of the suspicions about other’s ulterior motives and quietly mobilize for rougher times.

According to the measure of power that both China and India have, it can be considered that these conflicting countries already categorized as competition between major powers (where in the next years will be as great powers based on analysis of comparative level of power stated by Kenneth Waltz). However, if we observe it deeper, in terms of its military capability,  India is still not as strong as China, since it still depends on the existence of United States by purchasing military equipment to compete with China in maritime lines. While if we compare national power of China and India, China’s position is still above India in terms of its economic growth and military capabilities. And even though both states will do cooperation as the outcome of this conflict, the percentage for both states to achieve their interests in Indian Ocean will not the same (50-50) and eventually there will be clash of will towards both states and the possibility for war to happen is getting bigger for the next few years.[4] Thus, it is really hard for India and China started to do cooperation or making agreement as a peaceful solution over the maritime dispute in Indian Ocean because there will also the appearance of security dilemma coming from both states because of this sharing of mutual interests (as the response on what had been explained on previous part in the last statement). We can summarized that the competition between India and China over Indian Ocean dispute will be escalated and even turn into crisis within South Asia region because of China’s global influence within the region to balancing power through balance of capabilities of China and Pakistan’s national powers as the closest partner in the region to counter India. The conflict between India and China for the next years can be considered as Asymmetric warfare.

References :

[1]Indian Ocean” in, accessed on October 24th, 1.

[2] Ibid. page 6.

[3] Policy Brief. 2014. Geopolitics and Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean : What Role for the European Union?. The Hague Institute for Global Justice. page 5.

[4]Asia’s ‘Cold Peace’ : China and India’s Delicate Diplomatic Dance” in, accessed on October 24th, 2014