What is Politics?

Politics.

We probably hear this word far too often around us, and usually not in a very cheerful way. Over the course of history, politics became almost synonymous with words such as corruption, deception and hypocrisy. However, what many people often forget is that these words only describe what is essentially a negative side effects of politics; although it is true that many political events that occur today can be appropriately described by such vocabularies, politics itself is not a bad thing at all.

‘Politics’ is a very difficult word to define, and there are various definitions out there. However, for the sake of having some meaning in life, in this article politics will be defined as “activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Well, the obvious response here would be: what is government? Although there will be a whole another article later to address this question, let’s just say for now that it refers to “the group of people who control and make decisions for a country, state, etc.” (Merriam-Webster)

Why is politics so important?

The definition seems to suggest that politics is all about making decisions. And to a large extent, it’s correct. Politics is about who has the power to make the decisions, how to make decisions and finally, what decisions to make. There have been numerous different opinions on all three questions, and history was written according to the answers the government gave to those three questions. But politics is not just about shaping the ‘world history.’ It’s about shaping individual lives- the decisions being made always have some form of influence on its citizen. Political changes bring about changes in principle values and the image of the ‘ideal world’ towards which a country must strive to become. In simple words, politics shape the most basic guidelines and values in almost every aspect of our lives. Is your life important? Then politics must be important.

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“In simple words, politics shape the most basic guidelines and values in almost every aspect of our lives.”

What is the difference between political science and politics?

Some people do get confused when talking about politics and political science. Long story made short, political science is all about political theories while politics is more about what is actually happening in real life. A good politician would not necessarily be a political scientist. Political science is in the end, strictly based on theories, but politics in real life don’t always go according to those theories. You could say that politics is in a way a bit more to do with practicality of governing, especially with obtaining power in government, rather than with analysing how the government actually works. Ironic, I know, but we all know that the world is simply packed with ironies.

Next time, we’ll have a closer look at political science, and reveal some myths about the subject as well as explore what questions can be answered with it.


Photo Credit: photo by Samuel Zeller. Published in Unsplash in December 10, 2014. 4028×2779. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/_es6l-aPDA0

 

 

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Storm Brewing in South China Sea

Despite what the name might suggest, the South China Sea (SCS) is not actually owned by China. Under the Law of the Sea Convention, SCS is considered as ‘internationally owned territory’- basically, no one can boss people around in the sea. There is, however, a way to circumvent this law; if you own a piece of land, then a limited area of the ocean surrounding it can be claimed. This is why there’s so many countries fighting over two small chains of islands, Paracels and Spratlys. Although they are essentially just a bunch of rocks in the middle of the ocean, their location allows the ones who owns them to also own a large portion of the SCS as their exclusive economic zone.

There are three main claimants that argue that they are the rightful owners: China, Vietnam and Philippines. However, China in particular has been developing an unusual attachment; not only is it claiming the largest portion, it’s doing so quite violently. One of the most significant event involved China and Vietnam, leaving more than 70 Vietnamese troops killed after engaging in a naval conflict over the Crescent group of Paracel islands on January 16th 1974. Another encounter between the two countries in 1988 was as equally unpleasant, ending up with 70 Vietnamese sailors dead and China finally achieving its goal of owning the ‘nine-dash line’._67616829_south_china-sea_1_464

Map showing the ‘nine-dash line,’ area of the South China Sea claimed by China (taken from BBC News available here: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-13748349)

The international society was rudely reminded of the conflict when recently, in February 18th 2016, China deployed its missile defence system on Woody Island. The general concern is that the SCS is gradually becoming militarised, and this is enough to set the alarms blazing, especially considering that it is still a contested area with a number of claimants. US Secretary of State John F. Kerry solemnly warned that there will be a “very serious conversation” with Beijing.

Commentary

Now, the biggest question is: will there be another war? Considering the complexity of relationship between South East Asian nations, some may even think that the conflict might accelerate into a Third World War. Of course, it would be way too dramatic to assume that what happened in 1939 will happen again. After all, we are all far too aware of the disastrous consequences the war will bring- a war that might involve nuclear weapons. It is too risky for the whole of humanity to gamble over what is really only a speckle of islands. Yet, the debate remains; can the deployment of missile be seen as an act of militarisation, and therefore a military threat?

Although China does not seem to think so, it is alone in asserting that the missiles mean no harm. What the Western world and the South-east Asian nations see is simply an image of strong Chinese military gradually bulking itself up to prey on the weaker nations. Even if China does not intend to actually exert its military power in the region, the fact that it is capable of doing so will intimidate the other nations claiming the islands and eventually silence them. Later, even the mere possibility of challenging the Chinese will become extremely slim for the South-east Asian nations; as is often the case in high schools, the bully will get his own way.

Then why is US so unhappy with this development? Is it because of their burning desire to see the justice prevail in the world? I guess yes, partly that, but probably the main reason for its annoyance is in the fact that China is already very, very big threat to US hegemony in international affairs. Its incredibly fast economic development enabled it to rival the superpower, and with the ideological divide- well, no one can tell what might happen next. Will tension keep rising, but only in the limited region of South China Sea? Or will China’s tacit threat become a big enough spark in the peaceful pacific?


 

References:

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/06/27/china.vietnam.timeline/http://thediplomat.com/2016/02/confirmed-china-deploys-missiles-to-disputed-south-china-sea-island/

http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/lessons-from-the-battle-of-the-paracel-islands/

http://thediplomat.com/2016/02/5-myths-about-chinas-missile-deployment-on-woody-island/#/disqus_thread

New Around Here?

hey thereWelcome.
This blog is really simple. It’s basically a collection of posts which will either entertain you or enlighten you. There are four main categories:

1. Introduction to Politics & International Relations (biweekly)
: Most posts in this category will be informational, and will be mainly focused on introducing key concepts and vocabularies to those who have only just found the subject interesting.

2. Commentaries on Current Affairs (once a month)
: This one is pretty self-explanatory; I will choose a news article (something related to politics/international relations, obviously), summarise and write a brief commentary of what I think. Criticisms welcomed.

3. Commentaries on Historical Affairs (once a month)
: Exactly the same as number two, except that I’ll be choosing events from the past rather than the present to commentate on.

4. Book/Film Recommendations and Reviews (every once in a while) 
: I’ll be introducing a book or a film related to politics and write a review of it. I know, you’re probably thinking it will be boring as hell, but I’ll try my best to make it entertaining.

Well, let’s hope now that i) you enjoy what I blog and ii) I actually blog.