Rocking the Boat Won’t Mean Smooth Sailing for the US in the South China Sea

During a visit to Jamaica, U.S. President Barack Obama claimed that China was throwing its weight around to bully its smaller neighbors over disputes in the South China Sea, adding that it should not elbow the Philippines or Vietnam aside simply because they lack China’s size. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has also suggested in the past that China’s land reclamation project at Mischief Reef has intensified regional tensions. Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said yesterday that China holds indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the surrounding ocean, and that it needed no input from others as it carried out maintenance construction on the islands and reefs as needed and in accordance with the law.

The United States relies on having the most “size and muscle” of any nation to enforce its hegemony throughout the world, as it has done by rocking the boat in the South China Sea with an eye toward enlisting the aid of the Philippines and Vietnam in containing China. The Spratly Islands are Chinese territory, but Vietnam and the Philippines have each occupied several of the islands. As the United States continues to back the two nations in provoking China, Obama’s words stand in stark contrast to reality. Just as the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman pointed out, a “certain nation” has stayed silent about several other nations’ long-ongoing construction on the illegally-occupied Chinese Spratly Islands, but has complained at length about standard Chinese operations on Chinese territory, a clear double standard that is unfair and non-constructive.

China holds an abundant historical and legal basis supporting its sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and surrounding ocean. The Chinese government’s resolve in maintaining its national sovereignty and territorial integrity is clear, constant, and unwavering. As a responsible power, China’s position on the South China Sea issue can be summarized in three constants: the first is the basic guiding principle of trying to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea; the second is an unchanging political aspiration of working toward the complete and effective realization of the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea;” and the third is a steadfast policy directive of peacefully resolving disputes with those nations directly involved through amicable negotiation. This demonstrates China’s sincerity on the South China Sea issue, as well as the constancy and sustainability of China’s South China Sea policy.

In the past, the South China Sea was generally stable, with China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pursuing a dual-track approach to managing disputes and making considerable progress in talks for the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.” Then, the United States burst onto the scene with no other intent than to muddy the waters and maintain its position of leadership in Asia and the Pacific through interference and manipulation of the dispute. And as long as the United States continues to interfere, the South China Sea will not see peace; more U.S. intervention will only complicate matters. Any strategy to collaborate to check China in the South China Sea will severely degrade China’s regional security environment and have a significant impact on East Asian peace and stability.

But whatever those seeking to contain it may do, China will always have the resolve and capability to build peace, friendship and cooperation in the South China Sea with the help of ASEAN states. The United States will find that rocking the boat and encouraging divisiveness in the region for its own selfish interests will not easily accomplish its purposes.

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