Why Is the US Manipulating the Idea of Militarization in the South China Sea?

The South China Sea hasn’t been militarized. Firstly, the U.S. doesn’t want to flaunt its military power to safeguard against the nonexistent problem of “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.” The U.S. is actually the first to militarize the South China Sea, and many international political tragedies could be the consequence of an escalating cycle of “action-reaction.” In order to avoid moving toward a conflict in the South China Sea, China and the U.S. should do what is necessary to establish mutual trust and a strategy to open up serious negotiations, and the U.S. should not apply a double standard in making accusations, as it is doing now. It is only in order to promote its “Return to Asia” strategy that the U.S. is tending toward strengthening its military existence in the South China Sea and not toward weakening it. In order to achieve this goal, it will paint the situation as being China that is “militarizing.”

In comparison to other places in the world, East Asia has always kept a rare peace and stability, which is something similar to China’s restraint. In recent years, in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, the increasing competition among big countries is nakedly armed conflict. But China’s efforts to uphold our rights have never exceeded the bounds of peace, and have been subject to unfounded criticism.

Whether in words or in action, China has never expressed a desire to use military power to challenge the U.S. in order to realize its plans to rise as a great world power. But the sensitive and suspicious United States still chooses to put the responsibility of upholding world peace aside, using all its power to block the challenges associated with the possibility of China’s rise, and insisting upon deploying 60 percent of its foreign military power to a peaceful and stable Asian region. In this kind of situation involving both the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula, you only need the grass to move in the wind and the United States uses it as an excuse to strengthen its military deployment. The United States will, of course, give consideration to the region’s peace and stability, but it will adhere to its need to maintain American supremacy and interests.

In the face of American criticism, China is calm and collected. What China needs to reflect upon is not so-called “militarization,” but ask why an originally normal activity can be painted by the United States as “abnormal.” Here are two explanations.

The first is the fact that the United States has a superior ability to control diplomatic issues. There is no difference: What the United States is doing is upholding freedom of navigation, and what China is doing is militarizing. In this game of diplomacy, the United States has firmly grasped how to manipulate issues; public opinion has influenced leadership roles, and the U.S. has borrowed from this to firmly uphold its interests in the South China Sea. The only thing is that during this process, it has sacrificed truth and justice, and, of course, China’s rightful interests. In contrast to the United States’ method of “action-reaction,” China has mainly used the method of “provocation-reaction,” and as a result, this has provided the United States with a cheap shot.

Secondly, the reason that the United States’ views about China’s “militarization” have been well received by countries neighboring China may have to do with the fact that they are used to China’s low profile in the South China Sea. But once China begins construction in the island region and deploys the necessary protective forces, they will be “stunned.” This shows that rightful benefits should be upheld effective immediately and that China is not involved in violating other countries’ rights. The new state of affairs should be to uphold all rightful interests.

Of course, at the same time that China is advocating for its rights, we also must have additional means to provide for the public good in the area. During the ’90s, China made a commitment that the Chinese yuan would not depreciate and that it would come to the aid of neighboring countries experiencing a financial crisis. China took on more responsibilities in the financial sector, thus winning universal praise. In addition to upholding its own rights, China presently needs to provide for the greater good in politically stable regions, allowing other countries to experience the benefits of regional stability and peace.

The author is assistant researcher in the Department of International Relations at the Shanghai University of Social Science.

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