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Re: ‘Who is militarizing the South China Sea’, NI 521. What is needed is an objective and equitable international agreement on national sea boundaries, providing fair resource regions to all.

China’s ‘nine-dash-line’ is blatantly inequitable, justified only by China’s military ability to dominate all the other nations in the region, so it is hardly surprising that the US is engaging in ‘gun boat diplomacy’ in support of its allies, and also to save its own ‘face’ (‘face’ is not an exclusively Asian concept, a fact that the Chinese leadership would be well advised to recognize). The question is how far will China go to assert its claims, and how far will the US go in response? Or, in other words, will the current low-level conflict in the South China Sea escalate into a shooting war between two major nuclear powers? Current indications are that the Chinese leadership probably believes that the US will limit itself to ‘freedom of navigation’ exercises or may even back down entirely if China sticks to its guns. But will the US really submit to Chinese military dominance, especially with a volatile president like the present one? Or will the current trade war between the US and China become a military conflict if China pushes too hard? In short, I believe that China needs to be big enough to defuse the situation by treating its neighbours fairly instead of continuing to insist on having its own way and risking starting a war that would have no winner.The world must not be ruled by big-bully nations like the US, China and Russia that have the economic or military power to dominate others. All nations and blocs should interact in accordance with a single system of international law and conflict resolution. Our world is far too small now for national selfishness to continue to dominate international relationships.

Peter Schaper Biggenden, Australia

Proximity rights

Looking at the map it’s utterly ridiculous for China to claim those islands, rocks, reefs or whatever they are, situated a great distance from the Chinese coastline and much nearer to other countries. In my view, islands should either be independent or governed by the nearest mainland country. And yes, that includes the Falklands.

Clare Amanda Johnson via social media


Re: ‘Whose city?’, NI 520. I would like to offer a different point of view on the Cataluyna question. While it is certainly possible to disagree with what the independence movement is all about, the way you equate it with mere nationalism  (‘open cities stalled by nationalism’) appears to me overly reductive, dismissive of a genuine historic demand that precedes by decades the current ‘populist’ nationalism in Europe and which does not take into consideration the role of internal colonialism in Spain.

Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn Kabul, Afghanistan

No credit

Re: ‘Progress and its discontents’, the Long Read, NI 520. Crediting capitalism for partially alleviating some of the problems it has created and exacerbated is analogous to thanking the arsonist who burned your house down for selling you a cardboard box.

Lee Whensley via social media


she sells bangles by the


where?    who cares?

in Dhaka, São Paolo, Accra,

et cetera

in forty degree heat

and dust      near the refuse


its stench

seven days a week

she has a business,

supports her children by

  her own labour

modern      liberated

she never thinks of leisure

nor rest      better not

all those grim roads driving

  hard lives

Dave Urwin (Inspired by Letter from Dhaka by Parsa Sanjana Sajid, NI 520.)


Our apologies to Mahima Jain for incorrectly crediting her Currents article (‘India: Coal is in the air’, NI 521).

In NI 520, page 21, we included Afghanistan in the list of countries where over 50 per cent of the population lives in their largest city. Current estimates of Kabul’s population are 4.1 million; however, Afghanistan’s total population is estimated at 32 million.

NI Editors

Why I... oppose the detention of migrants

I’ve campaigned against immigration detention for the last 25 years, ever since Campsfield opened in my home town of Oxford, UK. I don’t want my taxes to be spent on human rights abuses – and that’s the only way to describe the practice of locking people up indefinitely without charge. Worse still, the Home Office farms out their dirty work to private companies – Mitie, G4S, Serco and others. In December 2018, we celebrated as Campsfield finally closed its doors. But my focus now is our remaining seven detention centres – I will fight until this outrage is ended.

Liz Peretz