[OPINION] Maritime counterinsurgency in the South China Sea: Exploring options

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Xi Jinping’s “global insurgency” operates on several fronts: the global economy, geo-politics, culture, technology, space, cyber, cognitive, and the maritime commons, among others. In the most critical front, the global economy, the CCP had ideological help from Adam Smith’s “unseen hand.” And so, governments had to face wicked problems, such as: 

  • How does one protect itself from dependency on China as a market, or supplier of goods? 
  • How does one mitigate its economy’s vulnerability to a “global supply chain,” which was clearly compromised during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic?

For Southeast Asia, the maritime commons is the key front. Here, the “naval balance of power” has tilted in the CCP’s favor; further bolstered by its coast guard and militia. More so, its “interior lines of communication” between its mainland and island bases provides advantages enhancing its operational logistics and sea control capabilities. Deconstructing maritime insurgency on three levels, we see the CCP:

  • strategically, leveraging its “comprehensive national power” to influence the region’s economies; 
  • operationally, employing diverse maritime capabilities to assert presence in neighboring EEZs; and, 
  • tactically, disrupting the “OODA loop” of regional navies through grayzone operations.  

To avert a CCP “strategic victory” in the South China Sea, let us look at how David Galula’s Four Laws for Counterinsurgency can be applied by the Philippines, in collaboration with the US and other partners.  

First Law: The support of the population is as necessary for the counterinsurgent, as for the insurgent. 

Beijing has leveraged its “economic capability and relationships” to gain ASEAN’s acquiescence. We need to win back ASEAN’s majority, but IPEF holds no attraction unless the US opens up its economy for trading. Given the mood in American domestic politics, Japan will have to step forward instead. It has robust economic engagements in Southeast Asia, which could be aligned with the ongoing security dialogues taking place. Perhaps Japan can also harness its private sector, and integrate the region into an ”alternative supply chain.”  

Source: rappler