Conflict refers to an open clash
between two oppo...
Conflict refers to an open clash
between two opposing individuals or groups. It could also mean a state of
opposition between ideas, persons or interest. One notable example of conflict
is that of the east and south-east sea of China. The conflict which has
prevailed to present day dates back to the 17th century during the
Sino-Japanese war. There has been rising concerns that the conflicts could lead
to a serious world war because of the involvement of world superpowers that
have an interest in the region. Therefore, there is need to find a solution to
the prevailing conflict in the region to prevent any impending wars.
Consequently, in a bid to seek crisis resolution measures, this paper will look
into accounts of ancient Greek philosophy and suggest relevant theories that
would be beneficial in resolving contemporary conflict in the region. Justice
is a prerequisite in resolving any conflict or dispute thus this article will
dwell on the works of one of the earliest Greek social thinkers Aristotle. It
will focus on Aristotle’s justice.
Despite rival countries wrangling over territorial waters in the South
China Sea for centuries, there is cause for concerns over the steady rising
tension in the recent past. China has continued to back their claims with naval
patrols and island building while the United States have expressed concerns
over unlawful sovereignty claims and restriction on freedom of navigation by
the rival countries. Countries involved in the dispute are North and South
Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, and the Philippine. The dispute is mainly about
sovereignty and territorial powers over ownership of two island chains called,
the Spratly and Paracels islands. Alongside these islands, other features of
contention are atolls and reefs like the Scarborough Shoal.
The value of these islands is the main reason of contention among the
rival countries. The islands posses large reserves of natural resources that
have least or not yet been explored. Some of these resources are oil, natural
gas and marine life. Another reason for the dispute is that the region is a
significant shipping route and harbor fishing grounds that support the
livelihoods of those living around. Therefore, most of the rival countries are
striving to control a larger portion of these resources. Though, China is the
only nation in the middle of the dispute because it competes with the other
smaller nations to seize control of all region.
Regarding sovereignty claims, China leads by claiming the largest
portion of the territory defined by nine-dash line. It is the area stretching
several miles south and east of the province of Hainan. These claims date back
to 1947. Vietnam, on the other hand, is of the contrary opinion and claims
ownership of the two island chains as dating back to 17th century. The
Philippines are the other claimants who demand control of Spratly islands due
to their proximity to the islands. Another area of contention is the
Scarborough Shoal, which is being contested by China and the Philippines. The
eastern regions of China that consist of the Diaoyu and Senkaku islands are
also hot spots for major standoffs between the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese.
Other small nations involved in the dispute are Malaysia and Brunei (Gao &
The consequences of the recent conflicts have seen Vietnam lose quite
some their soldiers to the Chinese battling over the two islands. In 2012 for
example, China engaged in several maritime standoffs with both the Philippines
and Vietnam. At some point, the Chinese angered both their rivals by
establishing Sansha city. It was meant to be an administrative body with its
headquarters in the Paracel Islands. Consequently, this led to the anti-China
protest in the streets of Vietnam. In 2013, the Philippines made an attempt to
take China to a UN tribunal under provisions of the UN Convention on the Laws
of the Sea. These events have later been followed with the sailing of a
destroyer by the US next to the artificial islands in an attempt to maintain
freedom of navigation in the region.
Therefore, the rest of the world has maintained that they need
international mediation over the issue. However, most people have raised
concerns whether the Chinese will be able to oblige by the ruling. Also, recent
attempts by the ASEAN to try to resolve the issue left the bloc divided
(Glaser, 2012). The US went ahead to warn China to stop intimidating its rivals
over the islands. It is, therefore, evident that the conflict is growing and
further involving other countries outside the region.
According to Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, he describes justice
as a state that ensures and restores a mean. Therefore, he went ahead to define
justice as the mean state where people possess or have their proper due while
on the other hand injustice entails people having too much or too little. In
the case of the South China Sea, it is evident that injustice prevailed, and
that is the reason they are in constant conflict. The battle for the islands by
China is a form of injustice because China as country posses massive portion of
land inland. Also, the smaller states possess small land. Some countries like
the Philippines are situated close to the disputed islands, but China has
insisted ownership. Therefore, as long as China continue to own massive tracts
of land while its rivals posses a little, injustice will not end, and thus,
conflict will prevail.
Justice has further been defined as the state of being lawfulness and
fair. Laws exist to encourage individuals to be virtuous, thus just and lawful
individuals will always be virtuous. The difference between virtue and justice
is that the former tend to deal with the moral state while the latter deals
with the relationship between individuals. Justice has further been split into
universal justice that means the state of an individual which is fair and
lawful. On the other hand, particular justice entails divisible goods of
safety, money and honor, whereby the gain by one person translates into a loss
of someone else (Greenberg & Cohen, 2014).
Particular justice exists in two forms namely distributive and
rectifactory justice. Distributive is the distribution of wealth among the
members of the community while rectification justice corrects unequal
distribution of gain and loss between individuals. Thus, distributive is a form
of virtuous mean that balances the vice of giving more than deserved and gave
less. This form of justice lacks in the region, and that is why China feels
like it should be the one in control of the contested resources.
Other forms of justice according to Aristotle are political and domestic
justice. Political justice focuses more on the rule of law while domestic
justice depends more on respect. Consequently, political law tends to rely more
on natural law and thus same to everyone and in some instance to various legal
conventions. China has demonstrated the lack of domestic justice by proceeding
with constructions in the contested region instead of resolving the dispute.
The Philippines have resorted to political justice by taking China to the UN
tribunal under provisions of the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea to demand
their claims. It is a form of conflict resolution (Beckman, 2013).
Aristotle noted that true justice is derived from a virtuous disposition
and that those who lack virtue may be unable to comprehend the just course of
action. Laws may fail to apply perfectly thus failing to produce perfect
justice. In such cases equity is important in rectifying the imbalance.
Consequently, equity is, therefore, superior to legal justice but inferior to
absolute justice. Now that China has failed to adhere to existing laws that
regulate the sea the only solution to perfect justice would be to apply equity.
It would ensure compliance by the parties involved in the disputes.
Justice ought to be distributed
proportionately to resolve the conflict. The involvement of other parties like
the United States ought to be impartial. As much as the US is determined to see
China resolve the conflict fairly, they need to stop making suggestive moves
like sailing in the Chinese territorial waters in the name of promoting freedom
of navigation. It can anger Chinese and thus lead to a deadly war with nations
like North Korea seizing opportunity to test their nuclear weapons in the war.
In conclusion, Aristotle might seek to apply his theories of justice to
resolve the crisis of China’s attempt to claim islands claimed by Japan, Korea
and the Philippines. It is necessary because Aristotle’s form of justice
advocates for people having their proper due. Contrary to this would lead to
injustices that result from one asking for more than his fair share. He
proposed societies to endorse the spirit of equity to correct injustices that
may result from failure to adhere to the law like the case of China and its
rivals. Aristotle’s views find the conflict beyond resolution because the
parties involved are not ready to embrace fairness and lawfulness that are the
key prerequisite to justice and conflict resolution over resources. Therefore,
for the crisis to be resolved the nations need to apply all the forms of
justice as suggested by Aristotle.