Monthly Archives: August 2014

Xisha (Paracel) Islands: The Inconvenient Truth – Analysis

The Xisha Islands (Paracel in English), consist of a group of about 30 islands, reefs, banks and cays in the South China Sea, with a maritime area of approximately 15,000 square kilometres. It is located about 180 nautical miles southeast of Hainan Island and about 260 nautical miles from the coast of Vietnam. There are two main island groups: the Amphitrite Group in the northeast and the Crescent Group in the southwest. In July 2012, China established Sansha city, with its government seat on Yongxing Island (Woody Island), to administer the Xisha (Paracel), Dongsha (Pratas) and Nansha (Spratly) Islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea. Yongxing (Woody Island), situated in the Amphitrite Group, is one of the largest islands and it has a sizeable population, buildings, a hospital, hostels, a post office, cafes, stores, a harbour and an airport.   Read more: http://www.eurasiareview.com/30082014-xisha-paracel-islands-inconvenient-truth-analysis/

Move to ‘South China Sea air defence zone’?

BEIJING – China’s efforts to protect its submarine gateway to the South China Sea could broaden from stand-offs with US military planes to announcing an air defence identification zone (ADIZ), according to two retired army officers. China could seek to restrict the air space around Hainan Island as the US routinely runs surveillance flights in the area, retired colonel Yue Gang said. The move would mirror a zone China set up in November over portions of the East China Sea disputed with Japan. “Although it’s premature to set up an air zone over the entire South China Sea at this moment, it makes sense to build a partial zone covering the waters near Hainan, where China’s biggest nuclear submarine base is located,” Mr Yue said. Encompassing air space deemed international by the US and by China as being within its exclusive economic zone, it would draw “red lines” for US military flights. The Chinese foreign ministry has previously said that China has the right to adopt any security measures, including air zones, while calling reports of plans for one over the South China Sea “speculation”. Read more: http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/asia-report/south-china-sea/story/move-south-china-sea-air-defence-zone-20140830#sthash.4XbL8bJp.dpuf

China’s Occupation on Disputed South China Sea Continues, Says Philippines Government

The Philippines government has released a latest picture of reclamation work being done by China on one of the disputed Kennan [Chigua] reefs in the South China Sea. Obtained from intelligence sources in the government, the picture shows huge cranes, construction raw material, tin containers to be used as shelter for people and a cemented portion that the Philippines government believes to be an air strip. “From the size, we can surmise, it’s a military base,” said Charles C. Jose, additional secretary and the spokesperson of the department of foreign affairs in the Philippines government told NDTV. Chinese construction work is being carried out not just on Kennan reef, but also on Mabini, Calderon and Gaven reefs. Reclamation work is on in full swing as the Philippines registered a diplomatic protest and accused China of violating a 2002 agreement between parties on the dispute, that stated that no country shall further inhabit any unoccupied area. China has been asking for bilateral resolution to the several claims on South China Sea. But smaller ASEAN nations like the Philippines and Vietnam feel vulnerable in front of a dominating China. The Asian giant on one hand seeks dialogue and on the other continues strengthening its claims by continuing construction on the disputed reefs. Read more: http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/china-s-occupation-on-disputed-south-china-sea-continues-says-philippines-government-583997?curl=1409447020

Singapore and the Sea of Discontent

Southeast Asia is home to roughly 630 million people, who combined produce a GDP of around 2.4 trillion dollars. It is also a region beset with complicated territorial squabbles, stemming from border to sea-lane disputes. There are many fault lines in this region, and none are more volatile than the South China Sea, a misnomer by some accounts but also a fragile zone of conflict on the precipice of conflict. As an economic and military juggernaut, China is beginning to realize the challenges it faces in the 21st century. One is energy and the other is territory, hence when 80 percent of Chinese oil imports flow through the Strait of Malacca and into the South China Sea, and when competing nations contest the nine-dashed line, it is clear that China will, short of naval warfare, do everything in its power to establish dominance in a region contested by other naval powers. Singapore is economically tied to the boom in China, and diplomatically associated with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). At present, Singapore is not heeding the maxim si vis pacem para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war). In short, Singapore’s foreign policy initiatives are based on a simplistic calculation that the cost of war in the region will exceed any gains, which it believes would deter any nation from initiating hostilities. It is a dangerous assumption. Read more: http://thediplomat.com/2014/08/singapore-and-the-sea-of-discontent/

China Seeks to Protect South China Sea Submarine Gateway

China’s efforts to protect its submarine gateway to the South China Sea could broaden from standoffs with U.S. military planes to announcing an air defense identification zone, according to two retired army officers. China could seek to restrict the air space around Hainan Island as the U.S. routinely runs surveillance flights in the area, retired Colonel Yue Gang said. The move would mirror a zone China set up in November over portions of the East China Sea disputed with Japan. “Although it’s premature to set up an air zone over the entire South China Sea at this moment, it makes sense to build a partial zone covering the waters near Hainan, where China’s biggest nuclear submarine base is located,” Yue said. Encompassing air space deemed international by the U.S. and by China as being within its exclusive economic zone, it would draw “red lines” for U.S. military flights. Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-28/china-seeks-to-better-protect-south-china-sea-submarine-gateway.html

China hastening work on reclamation projects in disputed waters–DFA

MANILA, Philippines – China is working double time on their reclamation projects in the South China Sea in order to complete their expansion agenda before the arbitration case is concluded, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday. “DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario has mentioned that these activities are now being hastened in anticipation of the arbitral decision and the conclusion of the legally binding Code of Conduct,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a briefing Friday. “That’s why they are trying to actualize or realize their expansionist agenda in the South China Sea before these two things happen,” he said. Japanese news agency NHK recently reported that China has built military facilities on several disputed reefs in the Spratly Group of Islands where they have done land reclamation. They showed aerial photographs obtained from Philippine military sources showing the development of helicopter landing pads, radar facilities, and even machine gun platforms. Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/110188/china-hastening-work-on-reclamation-projects-in-disputed-waters-dfa#ixzz3C1VeW59q

Chinese naval push could affect global trade

Tensions in the South China Sea—scene of naval standoffs in the past year as China has pressed its smaller neighbors on the open sea—may seem far off to many Western investors, but any conflict in the region could affect the global economy. Coast guard vessels from China (rear) and Vietnam in a disputed part of the South China Sea near China’s oil drilling rig, May 14, 2014. Hoang Dinh Nam | AFP | Getty Images Coast guard vessels from China (rear) and Vietnam in a disputed part of the South China Sea near China’s oil drilling rig, May 14, 2014. There are no definitive government estimates about the amount of global trade passing through the South China Sea, but the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimated that 8.4 billion tons—or about half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage—passed through the region in 2010. The U.S. Commerce Department estimated that the United States exported $79 billion in goods to the countries around the South China Sea in 2013, and imported $127 billion from them that year. Including goods simply passing through, Navy Adm. Robert Willard estimated in 2011 that the region accounts for $5.3 trillion in bilateral annual trade—of which $1.2 trillion is U.S. trade.   Read more:  http://www.cnbc.com/id/101952236

What China wants

MATTHEW BOULTON, James Watt’s partner in the development of the steam engine and one of the 18th century’s greatest industrialists, was in no doubt about the importance of Britain’s first embassy to the court of the Chinese emperor. “I conceive”, he wrote to James Cobb, secretary of the East India Company, “the present occasion to be the most favourable that ever occurred for the introduction of our manufactures into the most extensive market in the world.” In light of this great opportunity, he argued, George Macartney’s 1793 mission to Beijing should take a “very extensive selection of specimens of all the articles we make both for ornament and use.” By displaying such a selection to the emperor, court and people, Macartney’s embassy would learn what the Chinese wanted. Boulton’s Birmingham factories, along with those of his friends in other industries, would then set about producing those desiderata in unheard-of bulk, to everybody’s benefit. That is not how things turned out. The emperor accepted Macartney’s gifts, and quite liked some of them—a model of the Royal Sovereign, a first-rate man o’ war, seemed particularly to catch his fancy—but understood the whole transaction as one of tribute, not trade. The court saw a visit from the representatives of King George as something similar in kind to the opportunities the emperor’s Ministry of Rituals provided for envoys from Korea and Vietnam to express their respect and devotion to the Ruler of All Under Heaven. (Dealings with the less sophisticated foreigners from inner Asia were the responsibility of the Office of Barbarian Affairs.) Read more: http://www.economist.com/news/essays/21609649-china-becomes-again-worlds-largest-economy-it-wants-respect-it-enjoyed-centuries-past-it-does-not

Freedom of Navigation and China: What Should Europe Do?

Europe should take note of the challenge that China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi set the United States at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting earlier this month. In remarks to the press, Wang challenged Washington’s advocacy of high seas freedoms by arguing that the “current situation of the South China Sea is generally stable, and the freedom of navigation there has never seen any problems.” The increasingly circuitous nature of this debate suggests that support for the U.S. by third parties such as Europe will be necessary to break the logjam and reinforce a principle that Europe also relies on for its prosperity and security. What was not apparent in Wang’s remarks is that the dispute between the U.S. and China is not about commercial ships, but military ones. According to Beijing’s interpretation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), military activities within a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – which extends 200 nautical miles seaward from a state’s coastline – are banned. Washington argues that this is a distorted understanding of the law, and is supported in this view by the majority of states worldwide. Only about two dozen countries openly agree with China’s interpretation. Read more: http://thediplomat.com/2014/08/freedom-of-navigation-and-china-what-should-europe-do/