The Key to South China Sea Peace Is Apparently a Secret


China’s “nine-dash line,” it seems, now extends to the Dong Yu Grand Ballroom C, one of the main venues at the Boao Forum for Asia.

The interrupted line drawn on Chinese maps marks its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. China has been more aggressively trying to assert its control over the area, for instance by trying to implement fisheries regulations. These efforts are spreading alarm among China’s  maritime neighbors like the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia that have their own claims to the waters and islands. In short, these countries have an anxious sense that they’re being shut out.

Now we know how they feel. On Friday, organizers of the Boao Forum — a high-profile gathering of regional political and corporate elites, often described as China’s version of Davos — placed Grand Ballroom C off-limits to both paying delegates and media during a panel session to discuss the South China Sea.

It was one of the hottest topics of the day, particularly after remarks by Premier Li Keqiang at the forum on Thursday when he declared that China wants peace and development in the South China Sea but will “respond decisively to any provocations.”

Friday’s panel wasn’t intended to air regional differences. Quite the opposite. It was billed in the  conference program as: “South China Sea: Seeking Win-Win and Cooperation.”

The moderator was Fu Ying, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress. Panelists included think-tank researchers, academics and former officials from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, China and the U.S.


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