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

January 10, 2017 Topic: Security Region: Asia Tags: ChinaSouth China SeaDefenseU.S. AlliesChinese Military

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

A fable about the future of the South China Sea.

Then I turned to the second strength of the coalition: “The policeman has the advantage of finance and technology, but his greatest disadvantage is distance and location. Here comes the crucial role of the houses that occupy the strategic locations along the main street. If these residents and the policeman help each other, they can turn their shortcomings into blessings.”

“Tell me about the committee’s third strength.” Here I wanted my friend to join in.

“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