The
theory or theoretical perspective of realism is known as the oldest theories or
theoretical perspectives within the International relations studies. In fact,
the roots of its tenets can be trace back to the ancient Greece where
Thucydides presented that power triumphed over justice and morality in The
Peloponnesian War (Orsi, Avgustin, & Nurnus, 2018). Among many others,
Machiavelli and Hobbes, first, E.H. Carr and H. Morgenthau, then, offered to
their readers provocative and eternal questions that still challenge our times (Boucher, 1998; Molloy, 2006). Accordingly,
realism including its more contemporary versions like Waltz and Mearsheimer can
be considered as one of the most enduring approaches in IR. One of the reasons
for this is that ‘it sets itself up as a no-nonsense practical science of
international politics’ (Sutch & Elias, 2007). For realist, all
events in international politics make sense and can be explained through
relatively clear elegant and immediate principles. For these reasons, realism
not only remains a cornerstone of International Relations theory (Gold & McGlinchey, 2017), but also a flourishing
approach in the broad fields of political studies and political theory (Bell, 2017). Classical realism
has shaped the way in which the relations between states over the centuries
have been understood and still influences policymakers today. One of them the
South China Sea Dispute where the same theoretical perspectives believed to be
the main impetus for the Chinese that relentlessly fought for the claim on the
South China Sea. Thus, in this paper the writer will try to explain
comprehensively the realist theoretical (mostly classical realist) perspective
influence the actor (China) within the South China Sea dispute and how it
implemented. Moreover, this essay will help the reader to have a better
understand in regard to the realism theoretical context in this contemporary
world.

However,
to begin with we need to understand what is realism in International Relations?
The theoretical perspective of realism starts by describing the human nature is
bad and brutes as it driven by its own ego. It starts the point by stating that
human is inherently bad filled with egoistic and self-interested which
self-interest overcomes moral principles. After that, it described the International
politics as the competitive as well as conflictual arena. Frankly, it is
because the realist believes that state is the main and unitary actor within
the International politics which concerned with its own security while its
driven by the pursuit of national interest and struggle for power (Korab-Karpowicz & Julian, 2010). Consequently, the
skepticism is the best answer in regard to the relations among the states in
the world politics stage. The skepticism among each other had created a dilemma
among the state where an increase on your security means a demise on our own or
commonly known as the security dilemma. To added more, realism believes that
the anarchy or the absence of world government is the main factor of any
International political outcome. Other than that, states often to fail to
cooperate within the self-help system that created because of the skepticism
among nation which contrasting the other theoretical perspective, namely
Liberalism (Viotti & Kuppi, 2012).

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After
understanding the realist perspective based on the explanation above, the
writer will jump to the case study of this essay, namely The South China Sea
dispute. By looking at the dispute the indicator for that the Chinese
implemented the realism theoretical context on a struggle for the claim in the
South China Sea is its claim itself. The claim itself based on the realist
theory about the struggle for power. As the Chinese stated that the South China
Sea is same as Taiwan and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea are
the lost territories that should be a part of China  (Jensen, 2011). Furthermore, the
Chinese will win over potentially rich vast fisheries area followed by the
great reserves of energy such as more or less 70.78 billion tons of oil (Wang &
Shu-yuan, 2013; Guoqiang, 2015) and natural gas as
well as around $5.3 trillion in global trade each year yet alone the Strait of
Malacca represents 40% of it (Kaplan, 2009; Glaser, 2012). This claim is
become firm as the Chinese compounded its exorbitant “Nine Dash Line” where it
read as a maximalist claim to sovereignty and control over all of the features,
land, water, and seabed within the area bounded by the Nine Dash Line  (Tsirbas,
2016).

The
claim on seeing the South China Sea as the Chinese lost territory backed by
post-world war declarations, namely the Cairo Declaration of 1943 and Potsdam
Declaration of 1945. These two declarations emphasize that areas once held by
Japan in the South China Sea would no longer be part of that country’s post-war
sovereign territory, and that “territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese,
such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the
Republic of China.” (ISDP, 2016). Moreover, if we
take a look back on the history the China’s claim is rooted in its
understanding that the territorial features of the South China Sea constitute
territory over which China has historically held sovereign jurisdiction – that
is, “ancestral properties” passed down from previous generations. Furthermore,
on ISDP, the China expresses that “Chinese activities in the South China Sea
date back over 2000 years ago” with China being “the first country to discover,
name, explore and exploit the resources of the South China Sea islands and the
first to continuously exercise sovereign powers over them.” For instance,
Chinese sources claim that maps of the South China Sea islands were published
throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties, including in navigational charts drawn
up by China’s thirteenth-century admiral and explorer Zheng He (ISDP, 2016).

 Moreover, Chinese sources reiterate that its
claim of South China Sea islands has been acknowledged by some of international
sources throughout modern history. These include listings in, for example,
British, (East and West-) German, French, and Soviet atlases of the area
published in the 1950s and 1960s. To added more, the Chinese government’s
Position Paper highlights that territorial claims by other South China Sea
claimants, especially the Philippines did not encompass the marine features
within the dashed-line area until the 1970s. Thus, from Beijing’s perspective,
this suggests that other countries’ claims are relatively recent, politically
motivated, and further incentivized by resource extraction (China, 2014).

The
claim made by the Chinese proven to be no other than the pursuit of national
interest. As the realist stressed out that every actor is driven by the pursuit
of its national interest. It sees the opportunity to achieve relative gain from
this disputable area by start claiming the land as theirs. This disputable yet
promising area will give China a greater grip over the Asia if they somehow
manage to take it. Moreover, it will give China a good amount power to
challenge the U.S. presence in the South China Sea due to its pivot to Asia
policy. Thus, if this happened the balance of power will slightly shift to the
Chinese favor, but yet to shift far away from U.S. favor. From the South China
Sea dispute, the other realist indicator also can be seen as this event was
occurred due to the anarchy system of the International politics. As it
mentioned above the anarchy is the absence of the world government or it mean the
lack of a common rule-making and enforcing authority means. The
no-govern-the-state feel followed by its natural characteristic to be
egocentric regarding the national interest to ensure the survivability, China
came out with the claim that unsurprisingly shock and poked everyone instantly.
Proving that everyone is always skeptical on one another where some of the
ASEAN member countries (Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia) as well as the other
the non-ASEAN country like Taiwan that get provoked as the claim was out. This
event had caused a great regional tension especially ASEAN countries. Those
countries start to behave in accordance with the logic of balance of power
politics, for example, by building defence ties with major powers against outer
pressure or as a way of guarantee in times of strategic doubt (Jensen, 2011). Regardless of that,
China stand firmly with its position as it continues its activity on Paracel
and Spratly Islands by conduct rapid and large-scale reclamation and
infrastructure building in the South China Sea even China seen the U.S. freedom
of navigation program by conducting marine patrol and reinforcing international
maritime law as the violation over China’s security and sovereignty (ISDP, 2016). Based on the
indication above, it is clear that the dispute in South China Sea can be
escalated quickly into something inevitable for the realist view which is war,
a war that can change the face of the International politics significantly
where the balance of power of the world would shifted to favor of the new
Rising Power China and leaving many of the remnants of its opponent littering
the devastated land of massacre for the promising position as the top of every
nation in the world or known as the super power.

            Accordingly, based on the above can
be concluded that the realism on South China Sea dispute is a thing to be
concerned of. The realism theoretical perspective offers the very ugly view
toward the International politics, where the world was full of suspicion among
other. State is the main and unitary actor that act on the system where the
only thing that can ensure its survivability is itself. Nothing can govern the
state as it lives within the dilemma where everyone competes on each other to
maximizing its own security which created the world with the tendency of
conflicting to one another.

            Those characteristics can be
described very well on the South China Sea dispute where China plays a crucial
role on shaping the scenario. Based on the idea of national interest China
declared the claim over the territory in South China Sea as their lost
territory or commonly known as the Nine Dashed Line. It claims over the rich
and strategic territory that can makes China become closer to surpass the U.S.
power in the International politics.  Furthermore, China took every bit of
opportunity to achieve any relative gain regarding the dispute. As the China
walk fearlessly among the sceptic eyes of the ASEAN (Philippines, Vietnam,
Malaysia) countries as well as the Taiwan and not to mention the Eagle U.S.
that already provoking the sleeping dragon with its wing under the policy of
rebalancing.

As
the indication are clearly stated above that it is clear that the dispute on
South China Sea can be escalated and turn quickly into something inevitable for
the realist view, which is war. A war that can transform the face of the
International politics radically where the balance of power of the world would
shifted to favor of the new Rising Power China and leaving many marks on its
opponent that littering the wasted land of massacre for the promising position
as the top of every nation in the world or known as the world hegemon. Furthermore,
it is also shows that the realist view is one of the most enduring approaches
in IR as it sets itself up as a no-nonsense practical science of international
politics. Because for realist, all events in international politics make sense
and can be explained through relatively clear elegant and immediate principles
that makes the theoretical perspective realism become a cornerstone of the
International Relations theory as well as also a flourishing approach in the
broad fields of political studies and political theory.

Nonetheless,
this theory or theoretical perspective not show even a single sign of declining
and irrelevancy for the contemporary issue in the International politics. It
elegancy and accuracy on explaining the world issue makes this theory or
theoretical perspective will live long as well as keep helping many people on
interpreting, explaining, or even describing any event that caused within the
relations between one country to other country in the staging stage of the
world politics that filled with many bad and self-helping actor. 

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