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The Boat That the Philippines May Have Missed. [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2012-12-10 07:14:51 |Display all floors
This post was edited by abramicus at 2012-12-10 07:16

Sovereignty and Sharing - Best Preserved in a Two-Party Negotiation - The Boat That the Philippines May Have Missed.

Before we go overboard on the importance of gas reserves, which are non-renewable and depletable resources, we should also recognize the importance of fish as a food resource of far greater importance to the high density populations in Asia.  There is no sense in starving neighboring countries, much as they should not expect China to starve.  Marine resource should be managed and shared equitably and fairly in a give-and-take environment.  

Sovereignty is another matter altogether, as it depends on historical facts.

Given the importance of marine and mineral resources to all the countries bordering on the South China Sea, China's approach of bilateral negotiations makes the most sense as only in such a format can question of both SOVEREIGNTY and SHARING be addressed equitably.  There is no one formula that applies to all.  If there were, it would have to have built in exceptions that make the rule useless and impracticable.  Furthermore, the inclusion of interested third-parties only adds more mouths to the table, who will inevitably extract some benefit from the two original parties, tending to make win-win situations end up as zero-sum or negative-sum games.  

This is what is happening to the Philippine negotiating position, after it has adopted the third-party solution as its ONLY solution. It is now being forced into a win-lose situation, and sadly, more recently, into a negative sum game, by not just agreeing to US involvement, but also Japanese re-militarization, which is not a joke for the Philippines, as it does not have the nuclear capability of defending itself, unlike China, and would become instant sashimi as it did on December 7, 1941.  From a win-win situation through bilateral negotiations, the Philippines has now painted itself into a negative sum game, in which China can still win, as it has the strongest hand after all, but in which the Philippines has guaranteed itself a lost position, regardless of whether China, US or Japan wins.  It shows how deeply and pervasively confused its foreign policy has become in the complexity of the South and East China Sea disputes.

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Post time 2012-12-10 09:06:18 |Display all floors
This post was edited by abramicus at 2012-12-10 09:11


There are too many papers and books on how to do third-party negotiations, or aribtrations, but too few about two-party negotitations, understandably as the authors hope to be hired as consultants for such third-party talks, and can even extract some benefits for their own sponsors in the process.

In case nobody was ever taught how, here is just one way to do it, and for the purpose of this discussion, let us call it the "Asia Style" of two-party negotiations.

The main obstacle to two-party negotiations is the format of the talks.  Really?  Not the issues?  Yes, not the issues, but the format.  The format of talks is based on a sequential linear model where each party comes to the talks with its demands and assumptions, and then, by threats or deceptions, get the other side to give up its demands and assumptions.  Naturally, they do not succeed very often.

So, how do you make two-party talks successful?  By not doing the wrong thing over and over again, which is what Einstein defined as insanity.  

The format should be parallel non-binding negotiations.  The approach should be, say from the Philippines to China, "I wiill be willing to negotiate the terms of agreement with you, on the assumption that Scarborough shoal belongs to Chinese sovereign territory (Meeting A), on condition that you would be willing to negotiate the terms of agreement with me, in a parallel meeting, on the assumption that Scarborough belongs to the Philippines (Meeting B).  Furthermore, no statement by either side in either of these two meetings shall be considered admissions or agreements of either party, and may not be made public or they will be subject to denial.  A final one-on-one meeting (Meeting C) is necessary to the conclusion of any final agreement between the two countries."

What does this achieve but mayhem?  Actually, there is method in madness here.  For one, both sides can see, for example, that China has more to offer the Philippines in Meeting A, than the Philippines has to offer China in Meeting B.  There is no guarantee that there would be an optimal solution found, as any optimization problem suffers such a risk.  It however opens up the problem for a search algorithm that might just find one or several feasible solutions.  A sequential search based on one starting point may not touch on all feasible solutions, let alone intersect with a separate sequential search based on the opposite starting point.  In fact, since sovereignty is an all-or-none phenomenon, we know even before the search that there will be no point of intersection.  For any type of negotiation to work, both sides must agree that there could be solutions where it does not have the sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, but will have overriding benefits of greater importance to it that the other side may not be unwilling to concede on.

For example, if under Meeting B, the Phillippines offers (a) basing rights for Chinese navy for a specified duration at a specified rent, (b) sharing of marine and mineral resources, and (c) support for China in its claims against Vietnam and Japan, China will think twice before answering NO.  Or, under Meeting A, if China offers (a) sharing of marine and mineral rights with zero cost to the Philippines, (b) payment of rent and support service fees for Chinese vessels seeking replenishment but not used as a military base, (c) a $100 billion dollar investment in Philippine export industry that is guaranteed a market in China, the Philippine may think twice before saying NO.  All these considerations are exploratory outcomes that otherwise will NEVER come up under the old sequestial paradigm.  Creative solutions are allowed to be born, to grow, and to mature over time with the parallel paradigm of negotiations.

It should be called the "Asia-Style" of negotiations.  China has been challenging rules of the road invented in the West that served their purposes well, such as the traffic light system of red, green and yellow.  China is experimenting on the volume-driven paradigm where accumulation of a certain volume of cars or pedestrians should trigger the change in the traffic lights, rather than merely using a fixed time interval for different times of the day.  China's experimentation with market reform is another example of how Western ideas have been imbued with Chinese characteristics and flourished.

Contrary to what the Philippine negotiators may be thinking, their journey of negotiating with China over the Scarborough and Spratley islands may not have come to a dead end, but may just be beginning.

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