Talks to endanger China claims – study

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WASHINGTON – Multilateral negotiations over disputed islands, rocks and reefs in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) will most likely result in China losing part of its claimed territory and maritime rights, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) said.

Also, China’s full acceptance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) would require it to relinquish its nine-dash line as well as its “historical rights” in the disputed waters.

These were the conclusions of a government analyst after studying the findings of Chinese foreign policy institutions commissioned by the state to analyze the dynamics of the South China Sea and submit policy proposals on how to deal with both the United States and the regional players, said CNAS in an article by Yun Sun. However, such acknowledgement is collectively silenced in public, the report said.

It said that within the Chinese policy community there is a rather broad but private acknowledgement of the problematic nature of China’s nine-dotted line policy, the feasibility of bilateral negotiations of multiparty disputes as well as the application of UNCLOS.

The nine-dotted line is a U-shaped series of dashes drawn on a map by the then Kuomintang government in 1947, which encompasses most of the South China Sea that China claims as its own.

“Beijing cannot afford to be seen as losing territory to foreign powers. Therefore, between a foreign audience and a domestic constituency, Beijing chooses to stick to its existing claims and assertions even at a high foreign policy cost,” the article said.

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Policy analysts in China overwhelmingly blame the United States for the rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

In their views the US exploited the issue to alienate China’s friendship with neighboring countries, strengthen America’s alliance with the Philippines and develop a strategic partnership with Vietnam to contain China’s growing influence and maintain US superpower status in the region.

“Chinese analysts share a general disbelief that small countries in the region would dare to challenge China on the South China Sea without US interference,” the article said.

Some of the research institutions involved in the studies on the issue included top think tank China Institute for Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, the China Academy of Social Sciences and the China Institute for Marine Affairs.

Yuan Peng, director of the American Studies Institute of CICIR, said Washington’s support has shaped the strategic judgment and decisions by regional countries and served as an endorser of their rising assertiveness against China.

The CNAS article entitled “Studying the South China Sea: The Chinese Perspective” was written by Yun Sun, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies and former China analyst for the International Crisis Group’s Northeast Asia Project based in Beijing.

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