South China Sea row: dialogue and joint ventures the way forward


I refer to Philip Bowring’s column on the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines (“Beijing’s claim about its ownership of the South China Sea needs to be rebutted, July 16) and letters by Peter Wei (“China is right to take this strong stance”, July 14) and W. L. Chang (“Grim future for Asean if it fails to change tack”, July 14).

W. L. Chang’s ability to view the independence of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations only in terms of acquiescence to the heavenly mandates and raw power of the Chinese Communist Party-People’s Liberation Army is unfortunate, especially for someone who lives in a world city that takes great pride in its rule of law.

He clearly condones Beijing’s erosion of Asean’s unity, centrality and consensus-based decision-making with coercive tactics in recent years.

Must the world inevitably be a stage only for the superpowers and their stooges?

Is freedom of navigation only a euphemism for America’s close surveillance of China, according to Chang’s playbook?

What about the basic rights of Filipino fishermen to navigate freely across their country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for a living, liberties which were denied them by a Chinese naval blockade in utter defiance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) that both the Philippines and China signed on to?