China’s claims and actions in the South China Sea look similar to what the U.S has done with the Monroe Doctrine since 1823.
History.com teaches us that “on December 2, 1823, President James Monroe used his annual message to Congress for a bold assertion: ‘The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.’
Ducksters.com spells out the Effects of the Monroe Doctrine:
The Monroe Doctrine had a long lasting impact on the foreign policy of the United States. Several U.S. presidents have invoked the Monroe Doctrine when intervening in foreign affairs in the Western Hemisphere. Here are some examples of the Monroe Doctrine in action.
1865 – The U.S. government helped to overthrow Mexican Emperor Maximilian I, who was put in power by the French. He was replaced by President Benito Juarez.
1904 – President Theodore Roosevelt added the “Roosevelt Corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine. He used the doctrine to stop what he called “wrongdoing” in several countries. It was the beginning of the U.S. acting as an international police force in the Americas.
1962 – President John F. Kennedy invoked the Monroe Doctrine during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S. placed a naval quarantine around Cuba to prevent the Soviet Union from installing ballistic missiles on the island.
1982 – President Reagan invoked the Monroe Doctrine to fight communism in the Americas including countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador.
And, according to international law, the jurisdiction of a country only extends no more than 3 nautical miles into the ocean.
However, on “March 10, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation (5030) which set up the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The EEZ consists of those areas adjoining the territorial sea of the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. overseas territories and possessions. The EEZ extends up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coastline.” – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
With America’s Monroe Doctrine and Reagan’s Presidential Proclamation used as a precedent, it appears that China is doing the same thing in East Asia.
In April of 2018, China’s proposed a new boundary in the South China Sea. The South China Morning Post reported, “The new boundary will help to define more clearly China’s claims in the contested region, but it is not clear whether or when it will be officially adopted by Beijing, the scientist said.”
However, China’s claims over East Asia and its seas stretches as far back as the Western Han Dynasty (221 BC) up to the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 with China’s long history with tributary states.
Historically, a tributary state is a term for a pre-modern state in a particular type of subordinate relationship to a more powerful state which involved the sending of a regular token of submission, or tribute, to the superior power. This token often took the form of a substantial transfer of wealth, such as the delivery of gold, produce, or slaves, so that tribute might best be seen as the payment of protection money.
What China is doing today in the South China Sea is similar to what it was doing more than two-thousand years ago, and what the United States has done since 1823’s Monroe Doctrine and Reagan’s 1983 Presidential Proclamation (5030). If the United States can do it and get away with it for almost two hundred years, why can’t China do something similar in East Asia?
To make it official, maybe China might consider copying U.S. President James Monroe, but call it the Xi Jinping Doctrine. That will make it official and Xi will join Monroe and Reagan in the history books.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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