China’s not-so-great wall

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Whatever happened to the much-heralded Chinese policy of a “peaceful rise”? While the other great powers lauded the awakening giant for the emphasis it placed on “peaceful,” China’s smaller neighbors noted with increasing concern its single-minded focus on “rise.” In Asia, the reality is clear and stark: The operative term in the famous Chinese policy is in fact its unstoppable ascent to superpower status. Everything else, including “peacefulness,” comes second.

Consider the latest Chinese assertion of its absurd, sweeping, ahistorical claim to almost all of the South China Sea. Photographs taken from a Philippine Navy aircraft last Saturday showed that concrete blocks had been laid on Scarborough Shoal, the disputed area the Philippines call Panatag and which locals refer to as Bajo de Masinloc. (China calls it Huangyan.)

“We have… sighted concrete blocks inside the shoal which are a prelude to construction,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said at a budget hearing in Congress on Tuesday. What does that mean, Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello asked. “Are these then moves to create a Chinese fortification on Philippine territory? Is this the meaning of these concrete blocks because this is similar to what they did to the Panganiban Reef [Mischief Reef] before?”

Gazmin replied: “If we follow history that is the direction.”

His reading of the new situation in Scarborough Shoal was shared by an expert in regional security studies. “If China starts building at Scarborough, then it is an occupation and, I believe, the most egregious violation yet of the 2002 Declaration [of Conduct] (DOC),” Singapore-based scholar Ian Storey said. “It is a very significant development indeed and one that will certainly add to tensions.”

The DOC is an agreement on maritime conduct reached between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China in 2002—at about the time the predecessors of China’s current leadership assumed office. It is nonbinding, to be sure, but it forms a key part of the commitments that China has offered to its neighbors and is meant to prepare the way for a comprehensive Code of Conduct. Construction at the disputed reef means the nature of China’s commitments is now at issue.

When the Asean leaders’ summit in Phnom Penh last year ended in a diplomatic fiasco, after China forced its regional ally Cambodia to disallow even the slightest mention of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea in the traditional closing communique, many observers thought that the unusual display of Chinese assertiveness was a function of the leadership transition in Beijing, then ongoing. The assumption was that playing to nationalist elements in China was a necessary but temporary means for the emerging leaders to consolidate power.

The placing of some 30 concrete blocks inside Scarborough Shoal should now disabuse anyone of these geopolitical illusions. The leaders in Beijing are heavily invested in China’s grandiose claim to almost all of the South China Sea; they will be loathe to dilute any part of that claim.

It will be interesting to hear what the Chinese foreign ministry will say about this latest episode in adventurism. Beijing has been scathing about the Philippine attempt to seek legal remedy from a United Nations tribunal, calling Manila’s suit provocative. What does that make of China’s creeping occupation of territory that lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone—and is at least 650 miles from China?

The Chinese claim to almost all of the South China Sea is based on the so-called nine-dotted line. Chinese scholars have labored to show that this 20th-century document has deep historical roots, but to risible effect. That is one reason why, despite all the rhetoric about a “peaceful rise” in the world, China will resort to furtive construction followed by outright occupation: Their claim, a not-so-great wall of fabrication and imagination, will not withstand close scrutiny.

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  • mariovill1950

    Too late Filipinos, too late ! Scarborough shoal is lost to the Chinese forever, the reality is those who has the economic and military might wins.

  • Meow Ming

    History the Weak Link in Beijing’s Maritime Claims

    August 30, 2013
    By Mohan Malik

    http://thediplomat . com/2013/08/30/history-the-weak-link-in-beijings-maritime-claims/?all=true

    (delete space between dot)

    • Kaizensigma

      meow meow again with your cut and paste………………..

      • Meow Ming

        (=^,..,^=)

      • Kaizensigma

        =,…,=

      • zdrx

        ^_^

    • Tommy

      Good read, that, with a lot of valid points.

  • MONTOMS

    Stupid historical claims, why? Were the chinese ancestors mermaids who were born in the south china sea and go to the land now called china and became human? Just because its called south china sea does not mean they historically owned the entire sea. The dragon had awaken with one thing in mind asean dominance thru economics and military might.

  • TANYA22

    If our Politicians are not corrupt at least by current time we should have the Best Military Facilities and Weapons. I think if we have this China will think twice.

  • susanahjoy

    We need a documented legal claim from the UN stating the exact location and extent of our territory. Only then can we start talking bilaterally with China. Pag hindi, parang binigyan tayo ng China ng lubid to hang our neck. Pano kung matapat sa year of the chicken…

    • zdrx

      read UNCLOS article 57…it can give you an idea about the extent of our “empire” BTW, the case is now in ITLOS. there, it is not for the PH to explain the scope and validity of her EEZ…but for china to explain the validity and legality of her 9 dash line claim.

      just the mere fact that china tries to ignore the case….is proof enough that her 9 dash line claim has no legal support to stand on. her 9 dash line is a scam… a joke.

  • gerp

    what will be the assumption when they say made in china… poor quality, 3rd class, made of recyled plastic, fake, immitation, and it is from China..and where the .nine-dotted line made from?… from China…so it is made from China… what about the UNCLOS, where it is made from?…this is the Law Treaty of the Sea which happened in the years 1972-1982…and were enforced in 1994… so UNCLOS is not a fake or an immitation…this is Original coming from all members of UN… so how come China’s claim will be the real one?

    • Kaizensigma

      At the China ASEAN Expo currently being held in Nanning, China, Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and Bruneian Foreign Minister Mohamed Bolkiah, on behalf of the ASEAN foreign ministers, echoed China’s Li saying ASEAN will work with China to properly handle the disputes.

      “ASEAN has realized that the South China Sea issue is a problem only between China and some members (meaning Philippines), and should not affect its overall relationship with China. We should prevent the disputes from obstructing the good momentum of cooperation between the two sides,” Ruan said.

      Go ahead and bark your boycott, ASEAN certainly isn’t listening.

      • gerp

        unquote ” problem between and some members (meaning Philippines) should not affect its overall relationship with China” – this is absurd…ASEAN is not China…and China was not the original member of ASEAN… China is using the same strategy they used to control their own land…”divide and conquer”…yes and no, we do not need to boycott their China’s products because of poor quality and dangerous to health.

      • Kaizensigma

        Of course ASEAN is not china. However ASEAN and china trade in 2012 is over $400b from $40b in 2002 and is projected to be at $500b in 2015 and $1T by 2020! China and ASEAN have a very large trade and it has been wildly beneficial bilaterally for each ASEAN member nation. ASEAN and china will kick off their Free Trade Zone by 2015. ASEAN as a bloc certainly is not joining in any calls for china boycott. On the contrary they are thrill with the volume of their current trade, and that goes with Vietnam, and are all betting their future growth with expansion of their china trade. That’s the reality and the facts!

      • gerp

        that is only numbers or figures that any man can drool about…it can be go up or just a trap.. good luck…i wish that your facts will reached or surpassed its targets… kunsabagay…libre naman mangarap.

  • cnpp

    Regardless of anything China says they are showing the true nature of their plans and policies through her actions. All this passive aggressive, belligerent war mongering should met by the people of all freedom loving, peaceful living Nations with a complete embargo of China and her shoddy goods. While it may be unrealistic for our Governments to sever all ties with China there is no good reason for us individual consumers to help fund Chinas apparent belligerence and potentially disastrous policies

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