In a world of constant conflict, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. The war in Syria as well as terror attacks in the United States and Europe are at the forefront in many people’s minds, but there is another conflict I would like to bring to your attention; territorials claims in the South China Sea. There are several countries with maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, The Philippines, Taiwan (claim not mapped), and, of course, China.
These overlapping territorial claims vary greatly in size with those of China and Vietnam being the largest. The reason these competing claims are in the news this month is a recent judgement by U.N arbitration against the Chinese claims. The Philippines sought “arbitration in 2013 on several issues related to its long-running territorial disputes with China. In its ruling [last] Tuesday, the tribunal found China’s far-reaching claims to the South China Sea had no legal basis and that Beijing had violated the Philippines’ maritime rights by building up artificial islands and disrupting fishing and oil exploration” [Yahoo Finance].
The Philippines may have requested the arbitration, but there are more interested parties in the region. Nearly all of these parties, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, India, and Japan want both The Philippines and China to abide by the U.N judgement peacefully. Only China and Taiwan, oddly, disappointed by the U.N’s ruling. China has essentially declared that they will ignore the U.N’s decision saying the international body does not have the authority to make them (which is wholeheartedly false). Taiwan also sees the South China Sea as theirs exclusively.
The Philippines is likely pleased with the favorable judgement, of course, but there is a long way to go for their territorial rights to be realized. The U.N does not have the authority to enforce their decision. The United States, ally of The Philippines (and South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan), will likely play a large role in enforcing the United Nations’ ruling if only through continued patrolling of international waters in the South China Sea (something that has and will continue to aggravate the Chinese) and not actually through the legal authority to stop the Chinese from doing what they are doing. Most countries in the region want a peaceful solution through continued negotiation but, like any conflict, the military solution may eventually be tempting enough for one or more of the claimants. This additional map from Yahoo Finance shows the military might of many of the countries in Asia as well as Australia and New Zealand. Ideally, all these military forces won’t be called upon to defend this one stretch of water.
China has the largest combined military and is quite possibly the most willing to use it. If that’s an unfair assumption, the Chinese are definitely the most willing to build up barely noticeable reefs nowhere near their mainland into militarized islands complete with full-size runways, anti-aircraft weaponry, and massive naval fleets. Below is one more related map (for fun) followed by a couple pictures of Chinese island expansion and militarization. This isn’t the largest conflict facing the world today, but it’s definitely up there!
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Map 126 is about cost of living in the United States. Previous maps in my series have covered this topic before but I found this topic worth tackling again (and the data changes frequently anyway). In this map you can see the relative cost of living throughout the country. The average cost of living throughout is set to 100 by the Regional Price Parity Index and each county is then rated to that average on the map. The darkest blue areas are 79.7-85% of the national average. The darkest red areas are 115-123.5%. All of the dark reds, the most expensive areas, are in California and in the Northeast (no surprise). The cheapest areas are South Dakota, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, and the Southeast. As you can see, a majority of the country is some shade of blue. In my mind, that means the above average (expensive) areas must drastically outweigh the rest of the country.
Is your neighborhood on the cheap side or expensive side of average? My neighborhood in the Twin Cities is 100-105% (basically average). I’d like to hear how your area compares in the comments below.