Cops and Robbers (Again): Solving the South China Sea Dilemma

Chinese Shenyang J-15 fighter. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/@Garudtejas7

A fable about the future of the South China Sea.

“The rules-based and open nature of the committee means that the uncle can join the committee if he pledges to abide by the law and drop his ‘historical rights,’” explained my friend.

Seeing that I needed more explanation, he added: “The robber would be faced with three options. His best option is to emerge as the uncle of the neighborhood. His second-best option is to join the committee. Should he not choose this second option, the committee would challenge him with resolute resistance, the outcome of which would be either the first or the third option. Finally, the third and worst option for the robber is his defeat in a showdown, or his attrition in a protracted conflict. The committee’s job is to deny the robber the first option and to offer him the second-best one.”

“And this is the right incentive and disincentive to change the uncle’s dream,” I concluded.

Alexander L. Vuving is Professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. The views expressed in the article are his own and do not reflect those of his employers. He tweets @Alex_Vuving.

Image: Chinese Shenyang J-15 fighter. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/@Garudtejas7