Call it the Asean Sea
On maps of the world, most of what is usually labeled as “South China Sea” (SCS) is actually quite far from China. Its name comes, according to Wikipedia, from being bounded in the north by the southern shores of China.
But the SCS is also bounded, going counterclockwise, in the east by the Philippines and Borneo (shared by Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia), in the south by the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and in the west by Singapore, Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
This body of water, 3.5 million square kilometers in area, is smack in the center of Southeast Asia, and almost entirely bordered by member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) — a grouping of 10 states, with an aggregate population of 660 million, on a land area of 4.5 million square kilometers.
Even for geographical reasons alone, the name Southeast Asia Sea, or else the shorter name Asean Sea, is much more appropriate for this large body of water that is almost entirely enclosed within the region.
Ever since July 2016, when the Arbitral Tribunal on the Law of the Sea ruled that its “nine-dash line” is spurious, it would have been clear to any serious observer on the planet that China is the country least deserving of consideration in the naming of this body of water, which I shall henceforth refer to as the Asean Sea.
The fact that the Chinese government refused to participate in the litigation, vowed in advance to disregard any outcome, and instead rushed construction of artificial islands in the area, is convincing proof that it knew from the very start that it had no evidence behind the nine-dash line, and was bound to lose its case in a fair trial.
World opinion is slowly, but surely, turning against the bully. The Asean countries are, of course, individually opposed to the creeping imperialistic moves of China in the Asean Sea. Hence China is trying to deal with them bilaterally, meaning one on one, rather than as a group.
The Philippines has led the way, by officially designating its western exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as the West Philippine Sea. I think our government should do a complete job by similarly designating a North Philippine Sea, an East Philippine Sea (EPS), and a South Philippine Sea so as to completely cover our borders, and using these names in all official Philippine maps. The EPS is the most urgent, since this should cover the immense Benham Rise, which is undoubtedly also coveted by China. I hope every Asean country names its respective EEZs accordingly, if it hasn’t yet done so.
In time, as maps are revised, reducing the coverage of the term SCS to a few miles of EEZ close to the southern shore of China, and revealing the extent of an appropriately named Asean Sea, the curious world will ask why, and thus become conscious of the Arbitral Tribunal’s 2016 ruling, and appreciate its justice.
The ultimate audience is the Chinese people. I maintain the assumption that the Chinese people as a whole are decent persons, who know the golden rule, would like to live in peace, are kindhearted rather than abusive to others, can accept historical facts, and are not by nature imperialistic.
Here I distinguish between the government of China and the people of China, from whom the fakery of the nine-dash line has been well-hidden. It must count as one of the greatest deceptions in the history of the world, that 1.4 billion people have been brainwashed, for seven decades, to imagine that their country has always been the victim of foreign imperialists, and could never be an imperialist itself.
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