Monday, August 06, 2012

Missing the Point

If China didn't demand so much in the South China Sea, we really wouldn't care about who owns those bits of land and the energy-rich sea beds around them.

China is indignant that we are moving against Chinese unilateral moves regarding the South China Sea while ignoring the unilateral moves of the Philippines and Vietnam:

[Foreign] Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the US remarks sent "a seriously wrong signal, which is not conducive to the efforts safeguarding the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the Asia Pacific region".

The establishment of Sansha was "completely within China's sovereignty", he said.

And he accused the US of "selective blindness" as "certain countries" escalated disputes by opening oil and gas blocks, threatening Chinese fishermen, and illegally appropriating territory.

The Philippines recently offered oil and gas exploration contracts in a disputed area of the South China Sea off the coast of its western island of Palawan. ...

Vietnam attracted China's ire in June after it adopted a law that places the Spratly islands, under Hanoi's sovereignty. Both countries claim the islands as their own.

But China misses the bigger point. These states want to come to some type of agreement with China. They are too weak to defeat China. But China doesn't want to come to any agreement that differs from China's claim to own the entire South China Sea.

We are worried about China and not the Philippines and Vietnam because only China has the power to settle the disputes on their own terms by force.

We are worried about China and not the Philippines and Vietnam because only China has claims sovereignty over the entire sea in violation of international law on international and national waters.

Indeed, even if the non-Chinese actors start fortifying their own little claimed islets, it doesn't threaten our interest in freedom of navigation. Remember, we don't care much how these countries resolve their differences. We just don't want war and we don't want freedom of navigation eroded. But Chinese expansive claims make it in our interest to resist China.

Good grief, China, of course we side with the smaller countries who don't pose any threat to us with their claims and capabilities.

UPDATE: Strategypage summarizes China's view of negotiations over the South China Sea:

Can't We All Just Obey China?

The reaction of other claimants to China's 9/10th gambit should be to defend their bits of land before China can occupy them. If China wants to gradually take over the region, the rest need to at least compel China to exceed a threshold of violence to do so that risks diplomatic repercussions or even war.

UPDATE: Chinese media repeats the claim that we should just shut up and let China push their neighbors around as the gods intended the Middle Kingdom between Heaven and Earth to act:

"We are entirely entitled to shout at the United States, 'Shut up'. How can meddling by other countries be tolerated in matters that are within the scope of Chinese sovereignty?," said a commentary in the overseas edition of the People's Daily, an offshoot of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's top newspaper.

The main, domestic edition of the newspaper was equally harsh, and accused Washington of seeking to open up divisions between China and its Asian neighbors.

"Fanning the flames and provoking division, deliberately creating antagonism with China, is not a new game," said a commentary in the People's Daily domestic edition. "But of late Washington has been itching to use this trick."

Thanks for your input. We'll file it in the appropriate place:

UPDATE: China really does miss the point:

Because competing claimants Taiwan and Vietnam have already staked a claim to other disputed islets, China likely thought it could do the same without a backlash, especially since founding a city involved no real conflict.

China really doesn't see the difference between Taiwan and Vietnam staking claims to particular islets and China staking claim to all islands and all waters in the vast expanse of the South China Sea? Really?

And China doesn't see the difference in objectives and enforcing powers between either Vietnam and Taiwan on the one hand and China on the other? Really?