Meanwhile, the Atlantic reminds its readers that while Syria and Egypt may be grabbing all the headlines, discriminating analysts know what the next Global Hotspot is. It’s where the world’s major trade lifelines flow, an area which is now, on paper at least, being claimed by China.
If you’re worn out worrying about Syria, Gaza, Iran, you name it, I give you: the announcement today by police on China’s large southern island of Hainan that, starting on January 1, they will assert a right to stop and board any vessel they consider to have violated China’s very expansive claim of territorial waters in the South China Sea.
Take a look at this rendering of the area over which China asserts territorial sovereignty. More details below, but the red line encloses what China considers its own sovereign area; the blue shows Vietnam’s claims; the purple shows those of the Philippines; the yellow is Malaysia’s; and the green is from Brunei …
Now let’s add the detail that the faint white lines on the map show major shipping routes — whose importance is even greater than the map suggests. Obviously lots of commerce in and out of China goes through Hong Kong and neighboring ports. But shipping lanes that have nothing directly to do with mainland China, including the export paths from Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan to Europe, pass through these waters toward the Indian Ocean. Half the world’s oil-cargo traffic comes back the opposite way, from the Middle East, through this same route.
Surely nothing could go wrong. But thanks, Atlantic, for that piece of soothing news. It’s a welcome change from the Middle East. A timely reminder that there’s no point worrying about the Middle East when there’s no point worrying. And to complete the tonic, let’s listen to a nice brass band play some calming strains.