U KHIN MAUNG
(A retired diplomat)
While I was studying at Rangoon (Yangon) university. I took up “political science” as one of my optional subjects in my B.A Junior and Senior classes. Our professor Dr. Ohn Khaing had held a Ph.D degree from the British University and senior lecturer, Daw Khin Su had earned Masters degree from American University. In those days at university, all the subjects were lectured in English. With devotion and dedication to their jobs, with a goodwill to share a wealth of knowledge and experience of their abilities with us, they did their jobs to the best of their abilities with loving kindness and goodwill. We, the students were very much impressed with their lectures and we were very much enlightened too. In fact, all of our professors and lecturers won the hearts and minds of their students, for their good teachings, for their academic qualifications, and also for enlarging the channels of their students’ knowledge. So, humbly and honestly, sincerely and seriously. I would like to say that all that I am today, I owe an infinite debts of gratitude to the Buddha, to the Dhamma, to the Sangha, my parents and to all of my teachers, teachers from whom I learn something through their actual teachings, teachers from whom I learn something through hearing of what they say, and teachers from whom I learn something through seeing of what they do.
On the subject of “political science”, we were taught about the then political situations of the world, especially about the power struggle between the two blocs, capitalist bloc, led by the United States of America and communist bloc led by the Soviet Union. In those days, the United States of America and the Soviet Union were the two super powers. And the two treaty organizations, NATO-North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Warsaw Pact were two rivals. NATO is still strong and to which many European countries, U.S.A and Canada belong. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, “Warsaw Pact” is no more in existence.
Balance of Power
As the subject of “political science” is too wide an area of knowledge to study, in this article. I would like to present to you about “balance of power” in the light of contemporary world situations. Well, then, I think you may wish to ask me what does “balance of power mean?. “Balance of power” is a situation in which political or military strength is divided between two countries or two groups of countries. Another political principle which is worth studying is “checks and balances”. This theory, or this principle is usually adopted and practised in a country’s domestic affairs. “Checks and balances”. This phrase means influences in an organization or political system which help to keep it fair and stop a small group from keeping all the powers. In the United States of America this phrase means the principle of government by which the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court, each have some control over the others. This principle can be compared with that of the “separation of powers.” It is the principle of the U.S Constitution that the political power of the government is divided between the President, the Congress and the Superme Court.
Well, now, I think we should take a careful study of the current political situations of the world, so that we may come to have a better understanding of “balance of power,” or shifting of alliances. At present, China is a rising power, economy and military in Asia and the second biggest economy in the world, next only to the United States of America, one and the only super power of the day. We have learnt from the Central News Agency that China will construct a maritime silk road in the South China Sea. The maritime silk road will connect the world’s 65 countries for global trade. As such, C.N.A reports that Chinese power is shaping Central Asia. China has also created outposts out of large islands it reclaimed from contested reefs in the South China Sea. China has refused to recognize the ruling of United Nations Arbitrary Court, in a case brought by the Philippines. The Arbitrary Court ruling invalidated China’s historical claims in the South China Sea.
Parts of the South China Sea water-ways are claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, 4 Asean member countries, and Taiwan, a self-ruled territory. To “rebalance” as used by the U.S President Mr. Obama, or to strike the balance of power, the United States lifted a lethal arms embargo on Vietnam, its one time enemy and ramped up military aid to the Philippines, trying to boost maritime capabilities to assert its claims over the contested territories in the South China Sea.
The United States of America welcomes the rise of the People’s Republic of China as a peaceful, stable, prosperous country and responsible member in the family of nations and as a responsible player in global affairs. Why? Because the United States believe that, that sort of China will benefit all countries across the world. But there are some, including even in China, who would like to see the United States of America rebalance as an attempt to contain the rise of China, which has been cementing its dominance in the region through investment, trade and aid as well as military build-up in the South China Sea.
China has created outposts out of the large islands it reclaimed from contested reefs. And when the Philippines, one of countries which makes claim on the part of the South China Sea waters presented the case to the UN Arbitral Court. The Court invalidated China’s historical claims on South China Sea and passed a ruling in favour of the Philippines. However, China has refused to recognize the result of July Arbitral ruling, saying the ruling is non-binding. The United States has no claims on the South China Sea but has interest-stakes in the freedom of navigation and overflight. On the part of the developing and small nations, their interest is to see “the upholding of international law and peaceful settlement of disputes.”
While asserting that UN Arbitral Court ruling is valid and binding, the United States of America conducted freedom of o”erflight and navigation operations close to China-claimed islands, to challenge what it sees as China’s excessive maritime claims. Their rivalry in the region and differences have prompted some nations to ask if the two power may be headed for confrontation.
According to the recent news item, the Philippine President Mr. Rodigro Duterte has said that he would raise a controversial Arbitral ruling on the South China Sea with China’s leaders and he vowed not to surrender any sovereignty or deviate from the July U.N Arbitral Court ruling. In essence, the Philippine leader has said during his state visit to China, he would raise the UN Court ruling with China’s leaders, but he wouldn’t bargain. In this connection, I would like to present to you, as a retired diplomat, the significance of choice of language in diplomacy. As far as I understand “raise” in this context means “to bring up for consideration, or to put forward; and “bargain” means “to negotiate.” In other words, the UN Arbitral Court ruling” is valid and binding, so the two parties to this conflict should bring up how to implement it, how to put the ruling into force,” and not to negotiate on this issue.
Well, let’s wait and see.
(1) C.N.A Satellite Channel
(2) The Global New Light of Myanmar
(3) The Straits Times