In regards to the South China Sea dispute, China has demonstrated patience and goodwill. Certain other countries have repeatedly carried on in a reckless manner, but China has adhered to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and is committed to bilateral discussions to resolve the issue. America is proving to be “afraid of the sky falling,” but, like the man who warns of the falling sky, this is not the case.
On July 24th, the establishment of the city of Sansha in the South China Sea was announced, which symbolizes the lynchpin of China’s new approach to the South China Sea. While the military celebrates the new city with musical performances on this side of the world, the U.S. is busy vocalizing its concerns on the other. U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland issued a statement that the U.S. was very concerned China was acting in this manner. The U.S. opposes the use of economic and military threats to solve this territorial issue.
Nuland is confused. People know that Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands are all part of China’s territorial lands and waters. The establishment of Sansha City is to help administer and develop the islands and reefs. There are three large groups of islands, with the surrounding waters containing 30 reefs and hundreds of islets and shoals as well as fishing, oil, iron, copper, manganese, and phosphorous reserves. As the coastal economy quickly develops, a strategy to develop the coastal waters is essential. At the same time, this marine development is not coordinated and the development of a marine resource management system is not perfect. From concerns of the marine industrial structure, including protecting the environment, strengthening the control of the three islands is inevitable. Because of this, there is a need to sort out their administration and cut down administrative costs. This is an excellent opportunity to do so and should be taken advantage of. Although faced with contention over the sovereignty of the South China Sea, three domestic laws—the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, the Statement of the Baseline of the Territorial Sea of the People’s Republic of China, and the People’s Republic of China on Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf—strengthen the power of interpretation of China’s maritime rights and interests. Nuland criticized China as acting unilaterally. Does China need to ask for the United States’ consent in establishing domestic institutions? What kind of logic is that?
To speak plainly, America’s concern is really about the United States’ declining strength in Asia. It is worth noting that while the U.S. expressed concern about Sansha, Vietnam and the Philippines also cried out. In recent years, the winds and waves around the South China Sea are not calm, and it is not hard to find the root cause. The Philippines and Vietnam use their naval ships to obstruct China’s fishing vessels and repeatedly and recklessly scheme against China with the ASEAN Regional Forum. And in the background, the U.S. is supporting them.
On the question of the South China Sea, the U.S. dallies in two roles, but it is in a truly awkward situation. On the one hand, it wants to clarify its role in Asia to China; on the other it wants to maintain unobstructed navigation for itself. The strength of China has left the region uneasy. In the international arena, the U.S. is not stating its position on the South China Sea. But its public actions are meant to contain China and it has carried out joint military exercises with Vietnam and the Philippines. The BBC reported that Philippine President Aquino has said he is not opposed to joint ventures with the U.S. military to accelerate the training of the Philippine Armed Forces. Although the U.S. has said it is neutral, it is pivoting back to Asia and has stated that the South China Sea should be an international waterway. Vietnam and the Philippines, along with other countries supported by the United States, have acted unscrupulously and in violation of the “Declaration on the Code of Conduct of the Parties of the South China Sea.” Recently, Vietnam has passed the “Vietnamese Law of the Sea” that includes the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the territories. The U.S. has been quiet on these provocative acts, but yet expresses concern for Sansha. Who can imagine what the U.S. is scheming?
When Sansha was established, the newly designated mayor Xiaojie told reporters of the city’s “four commitments:” to administer the region, help Sansha develop, protect the environment and improve the lifestyle of the city’s residents. The background and purpose confirms the responsibility of establishing a city. It cannot be accused as an unwarranted development and should not be a matter for concern.
Of course, it was still a shock to the outside world; on June 21, 2012, China’s State Council decided to establish a prefecture-level city; on July 23, the first session of the People’s Congress in Sansha elected Shi Chang, the Municipal People’s Congress, and set up various functional departments.
Setting up Sansha to create diplomatic channels to negotiate with other countries means China is orderly. China has the strength and ability to defend territorial waters and maintain peace. At the same time, countries like the Philippines and Vietnam sow disorder between ASEAN and China. But they aren’t successful because China is the largest trading partner of ASEAN, Australia, Japan and South Korea. They recognize the importance of good relations and only mutual respect and cooperation can promote economic development and achieve common prosperity. Therefore, most countries in Asia-Pacific do not completely follow America.
For disputes in the South China Sea, China has demonstrated sincerity and patience. Some countries stir up trouble again and again, but China has always adhered to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and will solve the problem through bilateral negotiations.
America’s worries are merely alarmist and totally unnecessary.
Edited by Katie Marinello