If you've been following the worrisome and escalating South China Sea controversy, you know that China has been flexing its muscles laying claim to thousands of square miles of islands and ocean that other countries - Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines, to name the main ones - also claim to control.
This isn't some foreign skirmish that we can easily dismiss because of its distance, and because it doesn't affect us here at home.
The fact is, it affects the United States directly - and you could feel the fallout as soon as 2013.
Let me show you why.
As my Private Briefing subscribers know, I'm a regular listener to the world band radio broadcasts of the Voice of America, the BBC, NHK World/Radio Japan International, Radio Voice of Vietnam, China Radio International, and many others.
Granted, some of what they say is propaganda. But those broadcasts also include a lot of really excellent international and regional news and analyses - including viewpoints we don't often hear from monopolistic U.S. news outlets.
The South China Sea controversy is a terrific example of a story that's not getting much play in the U.S. media.
It should be, though, since the ramifications are huge: This region is flush with resources - as much as 213 billion barrels of oil (10 times the proven U.S. reserves) and 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (equal to all the reserves held by Qatar). There's also a rich fishing ground that feeds millions and employs thousands.
This "spat" has already resulted in naval standoffs between China and the Philippines, allegations that China sabotaged oil-exploration gear put in place by Vietnam, and an overt move by China to seek oil-exploration bids for areas that Vietnam says are part of its territorial waters.
In June, China even "formed" a city on islands that both Taiwan and Vietnam claim control over. And this month, China approved a military garrison for that island. It may be why Vietnam recently held "live-fire" exercises off its own coast - a move that Beijing interpreted as "an overt act."
Still say this doesn't affect the United States?
Well, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would certainly disagree. She has been involved as a moderator in the dispute since 2010, and the conflict was a top agenda item during her recent visit to Southeast Asia.
In fact, in early July, Philippines President Benigno Aquino said he was thinking of asking the United States to deploy spy planes in the South China Sea to help monitor the disputed waters.
What This Crisis is Really All About
So let's identify this South China Sea spat for what it really is: An advanced look at the extreme conflicts that we're going to see with increasing frequency in the next few years.
Many of these conflicts will be ignited by energy. Others by disagreements over mineral rights and natural-resource deposits. Food shortages will be a big catalyst.
And some of the biggest, believe it or not, will be touched off because of disputes over, of all things, water.
As you can see, I wasn't surprised by the South China Sea donnybrook. I had been anticipating it - or one very much like it.
But I have a confession to make: I have a bit of an advantage over you.
You see, for more than a year now, our publisher Money Map Press has been working on a major investigation of the "ultimate pyramid scheme" - a government-backed contrivance that's setting the world financial system up for the ultimate fall.
Headed by Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald, energy specialist Dr. Kent Moors, and best-selling author Chris Martenson, the Money Map Press investigators scrutinized the latest research, secret government reports and even some new discoveries that we made along the way.
Their findings ran the gamut from sobering to shocking to downright terrifying.
But the bottom line is this: The exponential growth that we've seen in the global economy - that our entire way of life is based upon, in fact - is unsustainable. Shortages in energy, food, water, natural resources, and so-called "rare earth" minerals are inevitable.
Our findings were so dramatic, and so well-supported, that we decided to turn our investigation into a documentary to better present them.
We even hired an Emmy Award-winning director to help produce it.
But here's the point I really want to make. Before you dismiss us as a group of economic Cassandras - or say "what's the use?" and give up - let me assure you that this situation is far from hopeless as far as individual investors like you are concerned.
There are several steps you can take now to protect yourself and your family when the inevitable breakdown arrives.
In fact, investors who make the moves that we recommend - and do so when we say - will actually prosper when the fireworks begin. That's because, in addition to the documentary, we put together a series of recommendations that you can put to good use immediately.
If you do so, the odds are much better that you won't be stung by predicted future events - in fact, they'll work to your favor.
In the year that we've been publishing Private Briefing, I've used the research from this ongoing investigation to help shape both the service and its recommendations. I've also seen the "rushes" (the periodic raw footage) from the documentary, so I know that what we're recommending is part of our core "belief system" here at Money Morning.
Make it part of yours.
If you haven't already, click here to watch this critical new documentary. It will be the most important thing you do today.
William Patalon III, Executive Editor
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About the Author
Before he moved into the investment-research business in 2005, William (Bill) Patalon III spent 22 years as an award-winning financial reporter, columnist, and editor. Today he is the Executive Editor and Senior Research Analyst for Money Morning at Money Map Press.
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