By Zhao Minghao, June 08, 2015, People’s Daily (China)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently said he would raise the issue of China’sconstruction work in the South China Sea at the G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, on June-7-8. Before that, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had said China’s reclamation workin the South China Sea was “out of step” and required “an immediate end”, and threatenedto send more US ships and aircraft to patrol the areas nearby, to which, Beijing respondedsaying Washington should adopt a responsible attitude and play a constructive role in theregion.
China has been emphasizing that its construction work will help make navigation safer inthe South China Sea. But instead of paying heed to China’s assertions, the US is tacitlysupporting Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea disputes because itsintention is to contain China. No wonder, it has turned a blind eye to similar constructionactivities of Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea for the past several years.
With Washington misjudging Beijing’s strategic intentions and calling it “aggressive”,Hanoi and Manila have taken an even tougher stance against Beijing. Because of a similarmisjudgment, Washington stubbornly opposed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bankfor which it is likely to incur huge losses. And now it faces a similar situation in the SouthChina Sea issue.
True, China has been following a more proactive maritime policy in recent years. But thatdoesn’t mean its defense policy has become aggressive. It has not raised any new maritimeclaims, for its policy is focused on responding to neighboring countries’ provocations,which include the “nationalization” of the disputed Diaoyu Islands by Japan and the attackon Chinese fishermen by the Philippines. Besides, China’s moves have been bilateralrather than unilateral in nature, as it seeks coordination with ASEAN member states.
China’s moves are aimed at thwarting the Philippines and Vietnam from further violatingits territorial integrity and maritime rights. The small size of a country does not prevent itfrom using aggressive means against bigger countries – think about Japan’s attack on PearlHarbor that ultimately dragged the US into World War II.
The US has been accusing China of violating international laws. But the fact is, China hassigned and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, something theUS has refused to do for fear of losing its maritime primacy across the globe. Moreimportant, since the UNCLOS is not designed to solve historical or current sovereigntydisputes, China has the right to refuse international arbitration in the South China Seaissue, which the Philippines has unilaterally sought.
As a matter of fact, if disputing states fail to reach an agreement or develop mutual trust,neither international law nor arbitration in the international court can settle the dispute.On the contrary, such an attempt could worsen the problem. For this reason China hasalways emphasized the importance of using bilateral means to settle a dispute between twostates. For the same reason the US selectively ratifies international laws according to itsown interests.
But when it comes to issues related to China, the US is misled by anti-China “experts”. Bymisjudging China’s strategic intentions, the US has already created enough obstacles forthe healthy development of bilateral relations. And by thinking China is out to grabterritories, which is impossible in today’s world of highly interdependent countries, the USis building more hurdles in bilateral relations.
But one thing is for certain, China is determined to safeguard its territorial integrity andsovereignty. And for that, it has the right to draw the red line.
The US should learn lessons from the failure of its covert involvement in the Syria andUkraine crises. It must realize that there is always a price to be paid for intervening inother countries’ affairs, and South China Sea is not a good playfield for practicing powerpolitics.
The author is a member of think tank Chahar Institute.