Monday, December 5
Under the theme “Marine scientific research: confidence building and environment sustainability”, the 9th Ocean Dialogue seeks to explore possibilities to enhance marine scientific research (MSR) in the South China Sea, including the applicability of legal framework under UNCLOS for MSR as well as regional and international practices in MSR.
This short paper seeks to highlight key updates on naval developments in the SCS since the start of COVID-19. But why specifically “naval” when coastguards appear to be on the front page of recent incidents in the disputed waters? The key development of concern here is how the PLA Navy has become a more assertive actor in Beijing’s quest to push its maritime sovereignty and rights in the SCS. The Southern Theater Command Navy is tasked with both SCS sovereignty and rights protection, and covering Taiwan in times of war. In recent times, this fleet has become a focus of attention for an intensified spate of military exercises, often with sister PLA service as part of the tit-for-tat posturing and counter-posturing against American military activities in the SCS. But while this fleet is generally restrained where it comes to ‘counter-presence’ operations directed at regular foreign military presence in the SCS, the same cannot be said of its apparent growing prominence in asserting China’s maritime sovereignty and rights.
The paper analyzes the intersection of three key currents in Asian geopolitics, namely (i) the emergence Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a fulcrum of pan-regional integration, (ii) the evolution of South China Sea disputes as the preeminent geopolitical conflict of the 21st century, if not the site of the next great war; and, (iii) full commencement of the New Cold War between the United States (US) and China, dispensing with four decades of ‘constructive engagement’ vis-à-vis Beijing.
Promoting marine renewable energy (MRE) and implementation of Emission Control Areas (ECAs) are some of the measures which can be adopted by countries in the Indian Ocean Region and the South China Sea to promote maritime sustainability. Financing sustainable maritime development is also critical for implementing Blue Economy and ‘debt for nature swaps’ provide an innovative financing mechanism to fund sustainable development in the maritime domain.
The protection of marine environment and ensuring the ocean’s sustainability are global issues. Nowhere are they more important than in the South China Sea, a body of water offering abundant and complex marine ecosystems. Marine citizen science, along with the promise of data sharing and the adoption of the newest technologies, provide pathways to addressing the ocean conservation process, supporting collective and cooperative action and informing policy and public understanding of key environmental issues.
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