One Aquino administration (2010-2016). Good thing that the Duterte

One cannot deny the importance of
South China Sea to its bordering countries. It is crucial for the development
of their economy due to its strategic location and abundant natural resources.
Countries around it must therefore be willing to reconcile their history,
geography and sovereignty in order to collectively achieve development. After
all, given the semi-enclosed characteristic of the South China Sea, the
concerned countries have no choice but to cooperate with each other to solve
the issue (Bao & Zhu, 2009; Bateman, 2009). With the current trend towards
dialogue, as can be seen from the initiative of Indonesia and China to host
conferences and also from the improving China-Philippines relations,
cooperation in this region is clearly at the horizon.

 

Understanding and communication are
among the important factors needed in solving this dispute or at least in
easing the tension between bordering countries. It has been proven by the
improving relationship of Malaysia with China where Malaysia chooses to engage
in bilateral negotiations rather than internationalizing the territorial
dispute like what the Philippines did in 2013. Malaysia is now extracting
resources in the disputed territory while having negotiations with China
regarding the issue while the Philippines, on the other hand, experienced
blockades and decline on negotiations from China from 2010 to 2016 (Yoshihara,
2012; Ellis, 2017). As Kreuzer (2016) argued, this is due the fact that
Malaysia is recognizing China’s self-role and world order conception of
superior civilizational state and non-interference while the Philippines
chooses to challenge it. There is obviously a lack of understanding the
Sino-centric perspective on the part of the Philippines during Aquino
administration (2010-2016). Good thing that the Duterte administration today is
trying to enhance its relationship with China which resulted to renewed bilateral
dialogues and major infrastructure projects. This again validates our argument
that communication and understanding are both needed if one would like to
properly address the dispute. Even though one might argue that even with the
improving relationship of China and Philippines, the former still continues to
disrespect the latter by continuing to improve its military bases, still no one
can disregard the fact that at least with today’s situation, Philippines can
now talk to China and have its help on matters like infrastructure building.
This is much better than the military aggression and decline of diplomatic
talks in the past when the Philippines chooses to play the role of David
against the Goliath China. With China as the emerging superpower in the region
(Goldstein & Murray, 2009), it is therefore important to know what
motivates China to act on issues such as the territorial disputes for us to
have a complete picture of the situation. It is only with this complete picture
where a country can understand China and properly communicate with it to
maintain peace in the region. This must also be the same reason why scholars
and military experts should refrain from focusing too much on the material
dimension of the issue for this will create an impression to the readers that
the South China Sea territorial dispute is just a battle for resources. Shicun
Wu (2009), Keyuan Zou (2009) and Sam Ellis (2017) are few among the many
scholars who seem to disregard the non-material factors affecting the issue. Although
much of their arguments are valid, it will not give readers a complete grasp of
the dispute. It is in the works of Toshi Yoshihara (2012) and Peter Kreuzer
(2016) where the gaps are filled and the puzzle became complete by focusing on
the Sino-centric perspective to explain the actions of China — something that
is still new to the literature and needs more attention.

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