Thursday, September 15, 2011

East Sea: a curse for China

One of the leading topics of interest  of the world today is the rise of China - the country in just three decades has transformed itself from a poor developing country to "the second  power of the world " .  If during the last decade of 20th century humanity was somehow skeptical about the viability of this country, then by the end of the first decade of the 21st century have been surprised in a bitter-sweet mood, even anxious to realize that its  development seems to be causing evils...  Why? Because the country's fake or toxic products have been  penetrating every corner of the world's markets;  Chinese migrants flooding in every continent;  indiscriminately  resources exploitation under the name of "Chinese projects"  taking place in most parts of the world from Asia, Africa, Latin America to deep seas; the phenomenon of the country's "irresponsibility" to all global problems, and its  aggresive readiness to use violence measures in settling island and sea  territorial disputes with neighbors, and so on . In fact,  the international opinion is turning from expectation to disappointment about the role of this emerging power. 

This short article  focuses only discussing the threat of China relating to the sovereignty dispute in the East Sea (South China Sea), which may suggest something about the behavior required by the relevant countries, and some experience for Vietnam .   

Expansionist hegemonic ideology is still there 
In China and the Orient, names of persons or places are normally associated with a sense of expectation. That was the case of the name "China" meaning the state situated  in the heart of the universe ( the Middle Kingdom). Some historical accounts say the name of China started from BC, but  became popular only from 206 BC-220 AD during the Han Dynasty 's ideological formation and development as a doctrine considering itself as the center of the universe while  other nations around are "galaxy", cruel, inhuman and  barbarians!  No matter if  right or wrong,  this way of  thinking has clearly been a driving force for the country to constantly expand its territory, initially from a normal small kingdom  become today's China of a vast area of nearly 10 million km2 and   a huge population of more than 1.3 billion. That way of thinking  is deeply rooted in the minds of Chinese whereever they are in the world, and this  is one of the factors that makes the difference between them and other people.   

If America was born late in a land which belonged to the British colony of  America thousands of miles away from Europe, then China was the result of thousands of years of perseverance to expand territory mostly  by actions of wars and annexation of its neighbors, never crossed the sea to conquer lands far beyond. This feature makes China virtually tends to behavior unequal-footing and unfriendly  with its neighboring countries. This is seen in all periods of the Chinese history, especially of the "Spring and Autumn Warring States" and "Three Kingdoms"; latter on were seen with the Korea war, constant conflicts with Taiwan, the  border wars with India, with former USSR, Taiwan and "big and small wars" with Vietnam. Never having  good neighborly and friendly relations with any neighbouring countries for long enough,  China must regularly maintain the form of "buffer zones" such as Xinjiang, Tibet or North Vietnam and North Korea since late 1950s , or  whereever needed  even built the Great Wall in the north, all but to protect the Central China.        

On the way to development, history shows that most Chinese dynasties advocated "inward" attitude rather than "outward", even line of "xenophobia" has become a national policy . This was seen clearly with the Qing dynasty and with the communist regimes for a long period after the 1949 revolution. While  European empires  had tried to explore distant lands by sea ways, the Chinese monarchies only focused on exploiting the interland to the surrounding areas by road. That is why China is famous for "silk road" but not any "good names" about the maritimetime, except notorious about its people escaping the domestic miserable conditions to exile across the sea,  which has become a current frequent phenomenon of the country.           

These characteristics and the phenomenon as above mentioned are more or less help us find answers for  the behavior of the Chinese in modern international affairs. In the East Sea issue, although there is no evidence for occupation in the distant past and never actually occupies so far , China is loudly announced its so-called "core interests" for the entire East Sea, including areas  already located in the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of the other coastal states. As a matter of normal logic,  if really needed, the Chinese can only negotiate peacefully with neighboring states and other states  concerned ...,  but Beijing has chosen the way to confront all with the manner "to eat all of fall to zero". They do not seem to want to share but to monopolize the East Sea with any one at any price. Is it anything if not a continuation of hegemonic thinking of Great Han in the past?
Deadlock on development method 
The Chinese now seems repeating the outdated expedition of aggression and exploitation of resources applied by  imperialism and colonialism.  It maybe réulted from their  "illusion" due to constant feelling that China is a late comer and loser cpmparing with the other powers and now is self-encouraged by achievements of  "hot" economic achievement during the recent period? Hallucinations may make them choose the wrong policiy but thought it is correct (?). 
Let's see which is the real strength of China today. One can remember just over a decade ago, the world had seen China as a poveraged populous country, weak like  a  "paper tiger" or "giant on clay-feet." However, the country have been enjoying most advantages comapring with other developing countries thanks to the domestic economic reform taking place in coincidence with the resonance of the trend of globalization. Given the workforce's better  technology-skill, sense of discipline and infrastructure China could have been better acquiring and promoting the advancement of science and technology of the mankind. Nevertheless, it is not the real strength of a superpower. On the other hand, the hyper growth  in such a populous country has been posing  even bigger  challenges.   Unlike the case of Japan, Korea, Taiwan and other countries with smaller stature, who could have striven to become NIC (new industrial countries) by relying (mistletoe) on some "flagship" of the world economy like the U.S., EU,...,  ​​China is now impossible to do so, partly because of the run-out  state of energy, partly because of  the too large size of the country to rely on any "flagship".  International experts have also pointed out  factors that may hinder the longer-term development of this  giant country are the absence of a social democratic platform along with ethnic conflicts, the gap between the rich-poor,  urban-rural areas, from regions to regions,  and lack of raw materials, fuel and consumer markets, and others . These have been surely posing   considerable  pressure for this  "late-coming power" to try  by all means to overcome, including using force .

No one can deny the reason that China has to reach out searching for resources of raw materials and markets. However, what and how to reach out  is quite a different matter, especially in the context of today's world that has been high "institutionalized"  on the basis of ensuring equalfooting and fairness among nations no matter big or small. If the former capitalist like Great Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, etc ... managed to took advantage of  strength to conquer the maritime domain to "promised lands" and scavenged natural resources to bring back for their home construction, then it is now completely inappropriate and unacceptable for the awareness of modern mankind.

Perhaps to this recognition, the country's ex-leader  Deng Xiaoping put out the direction of two phrases: "peaceful rise" and "hidden" (ie, having to make use of the peaceful environmental advantage for economic development, but also to keep patient waiting for the ripetime, not so eager, to achieve the objective of world hegemony). However,  what  his next generation of leaders are now doing proves that they are impatient and fail to follow Deng's guidance, or simply because they can not wait any longer (?) Maybe that's why the Chinese leaders are now eager to apply the methods of the   old colonialism, not only for remote regions  such as Africa, Latin America, but also for the surrounding regions such as Central Asia, the Far East and Siberian regions of Russia, and also  sensitive adjacent regions of East Asia and Southeast Asia.

Wanting  to become an ocean power    
As a rising power, the Chinese may feel obssessed with the country position always surrounded from four sides, then why should they not give themselves  the right to choose to monopolize the East Sea as their domestic sea as well as an  outlet to the outside world ? They  also expect abundant sources of oil and gas to be tabbed from  here. This "twin objective" may govern the behavior of Beijing as seen recently in any activity relating to the East Sea isue. Although aware of their unjustice,  Beijing has chosen uncompromising attitude, even willing to play tough, brazen and violent.  Shown most clearly is that they announced the vague broken border-line of nine dots  declaring it as  "core interests" of China, at the same time deliberately creating  disputes  right inside territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of the other litoral countries. 

It is clear enough that  even though pre-calculated, the Chinese leadership is now so anxious that  can not wait and  now in  a rush to upgrade its navy forces with aircraft carriers, submarines, aircraft carriers, etc,... after the completion of the largest naval base at Hainan Island. Actually  they  have been conspiring to monopolize the East Sea by waging a series of aggressive actions by force of arms to invade the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam government in 1974 and then infiltrated some rocks in the Spratlys that was under the occucpation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam .  By doing so the Chinese want to create the status-qout of from owning nothing to own some thing like a "mingled status" in the middle of the East Sea in supporting their claims in the long run.

On the diplomatic front, Chinese has been appling every trick from the internal division among the ASEAN member states to fabricating and distorting historical facts. While aserting that they have sufficient historical evidence of sovereignty over the East Sea  for 2,000 years, they dare not bring the matter before an international court. They firmly rejected the so-called "internationalization" issues in dispute and only want to deal bilaterally with each country to enjoy the advantages of the strong and they called for peaceful settlement but to use force and mass vessels to dominating and occupying each position on the sea with each country separately.

Morality  no mached by force    
In the natural world, elephant, bull, antelope and cattle are bigger than lions, but they never play the role as "lord of forest." In the human world too,  China has never been considered "numer one", and  it may naturally remains  the same  in the future.

The fact is that, since early 2011 the Chinese economy has been officially ranked the world's second  instead of Japan, but America still accounts for a very distant. In recent years amid U.S. and EU economies have been falling into deep recession while China sustaining  high growth rate of more than 10%  for many rining years,  Chinese people expect  to catch up and overtake America to become number one super power very soon! But if one looks at the whole structure of population distribution and uneven economic regions  and consider the internal problems of the country  one caneasily sees that this country is far from meeting all the factors necessary to become a  true"flagship" of the world economy. In contrast, many of China's so called economic achievement  are in turn become harmful to  economic interests of other countries, particularly their negative impact on the environment and healthcare of Mankind.

In geopolitical terms, China lacks the conditions necessary to enjoy  resources and markets of the world. In other words, China has been a "late comer" comparing with the other colonial empires in the possession and exploitation of resources, especially if it intends to re-use their outdated method of land and sea invasion and occupation for exploiting resources.

It can be said nowthat the choice of method development is the first challenge for China. But perhaps the difficulty is that the Chinese are not ready to remove their ideological hegemony and  worshipped habits of power and violence which used to be a motivation to build up the country . It is on the background of thinking, the   Chinese people once again showed disregard for international opinion, which sooner or later will spoil the image of "peaceful rise" that has just hardly gained. In the case of the South China Sea, the Chinese leadersgip has now to choose between peaceful cooperation with  neighbors or expansionist hegemony by using blatant military action.  They should get clear that behavior based on violent power not only seriously threatens the neighboring countries but also threatens peace, security in the region and the world, including the interests of other powers such as USA, Japan, Russia, India, South Korea, Australia  and various countries concerned, who will surely be not only hand-fold onlookers
On the other hand,  the constant use of  tradinionally Chinese deceptive tactics and tricks  has proved to the world that this giant state is not smart enough yet to bear the responsibility and honour of a real super-power .   Recently,   Secretary Albert del Rosario of the Philippines, lamented that " How  can you discuss anything in the bilateral framework, as you sit at the negotiating table with the Chinese saying things belong to them all". International observers  observe that Beijing often mention  about the UNCLO Convention, but in fact they have been beating about the bush  ignoring the real values of the sdocument that they have ratified.

In short,  by publishising the nine-dashes line covering about 85 % of the East Sea area claiming and declaring it "natioanal core-interest" of China, the Chinese leadership has been not only causing axiety for the neigbouring states and regional instablity but also a longterm risk for itself .  No one can assure you that if  continuing with the same behavior  like what it has been doing in the East Sea, China will not collapse before it can grow and become a true power. /. 

Tran Kinh Nghi  

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