Monday, December 15, 2014

PLA deploys frigate to S China Sea

  • China's Want staff reporter  2014-12-13 09:41 (GMT+8)
The photo of the confrontation between the Cangzhou, left and the Dinh Tien Hoang on the Johnson South Reef released on the Chinese website. (Internet photo)
The photo of the confrontation between the Cangzhou, left and the Dinh Tien Hoang on the Johnson South Reef released on the Chinese website. (Internet photo)

The map of disputed islands over South China Sea. (File photo/CNA)
A Type 053 guided-missile frigate missile was deployed to the waters of Johnson South Reef last month to defend China's land reclamation project in the area from Vietnamese warships according to our sister newspaper Want Daily, citing a photo recently released on a Chinese internet forum.
The Forum of South China Sea Studies, an online message board based in mainland China released a photo on Dec. 11 which shows the standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese warships near the Johnson South Reef. Apparently, the Chinese warship in the picture is the Cangzhou, a Type 053 guided missile frigate. It was sent to the disputed waters to confront the Dinh Tien Hoang, a Vietnamese Gepard-class stealth frigate in the waters of Johnson South Reef.
The Dinh Tien Hoang and its sister ship, the Ly Thai To had just completed their visit to Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. Under the leadership of Nguyen Van Kiem, the deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese navy, both Gepard-class stealth frigates arrived at the Southwest Cay of the Spratly islands currently under Vietnamese control to entertain the troops on the islet. Officials from the Vietnamese government said that the visit was not aimed to provoke China.
However, the picture released by the Forum of South China Sea Studies suggests that the Dinh Tien Hoang was sent to the waters of Johnson South Reef to monitor the Chinese land reclamation program in the area. The Cangzhou was apparently sent to Johnson South Reef to defend its workers there according to Want Daily. Once China constructs a 2,000-kilometer runway on the Johnson South Reef, its fighters such as the Su-30, the J-10 and the J-11 can attack all targets in the region of the Strait of Malacca.
When China completes its land reclamation programs on Gaven Reef, Johnson South Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Hughes Reef, a new forward operation base will allow the People's Liberation Army to project its power into the region. This new base is 830 km from Ho Chi Minh City, 890 km from Manila, 490 km from Western Malaysia, 1,500 km from Kuala Lumpur and 1,500 km from the Strait of Malacca.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Vietnam Launches Legal Challenge Against China’s South China Sea Claims

Vietnam lodges a submission at The Hague and rejects Chinese position paper on the South China Sea.

The Diplomat, December 12, 2014

Vietnam and China moved their saber-rattling over the South China Sea into the legal arena this week as Hanoi lodged a submission with an arbitral tribunal at The Hague and rejected a Chinese position paper. Beijing swiftly dismissed Vietnam’s challenge.
In a statement on Thursday, the Vietnamese foreign ministry rejected China’s December 7 position paper, which laid out Beijing’s legal objections to an arbitration case that the Philippines had filed against it.
“Vietnam’s established position is to resolutely object to China’s claims over Hoang Sa, Truong Sa islands and adjacent waters,” Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said, using the Vietnamese names for the Paracel and Spratly Islands.
Binh also suggested that Hanoi had sent a statement to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, which is currently examining the Philippines’ case against China over the South China Sea disputes.
According to the South China Morning Post, Vietnam’s statement to the PCA, submitted last Friday, made three main claims in opposition to China’s stand. First, it recognized the court’s jurisdiction over the case submitted by the Philippines, which Beijing does not. Second, it requested that the court give “due regard” to Vietnam’s own legal rights and interests in the Spratlys, Paracels, and in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf while deliberating on the case. Third and lastly, it rejected China’s infamous nine-dash line – which lays claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea – as being “without legal basis.”
Hanoi’s actions are part of a concerted effort to respond to China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, which has continued in 2014. In May, a Chinese state-owned oil company dispatched a deep sea drilling rig off the coast of Vietnam in disputed waters south of the Paracel Islands, which led to deadly boat clashes and anti-Chinese violence and plunged diplomatic relations to an all-time low. In response, Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung had said that Hanoi was “considering various actions, including legal actions in accordance with international law.”
By lodging a statement with the court – as opposed to directly joining the Philippines in its case – Vietnam has found a way to make its views heard but not alienate Beijing, which has warned Hanoi against joining Manila’s legal challenge. Beyond the legal realm, Vietnam has also taken a number of other actions, including slowly moving towards closer ties with the United States – made easier by the partial lifting of a U.S. lethal weapons embargo – and making its first-ever port call to the Philippines last month.
Predictably, China dismissed Vietnam’s sovereignty claims in its foreign ministry statement, labeling them “illegal and invalid” and emphasizing that “China will never accept such a claim.”
“China urges Vietnam to earnestly respect our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and resolve relevant disputes regarding Nansha with China on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law so as to jointly maintain peace and stability on the South China Sea,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, using the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands.
The legal tussle between Beijing and Hanoi comes as the December 15 deadline nears for China to submit its defense in the arbitration case brought about by the Philippines. China is not expected to submit anything in response to the tribunal’s deadline, having already declared in its position paper that it would “neither accept nor participate in the arbitration.”
Two days before China released its position paper, the U.S. State Department published a study that questioned the validity of Beijing’s nine-dash line. China dismissed the study, claiming that it ignored basic facts and legal principles and was unhelpful in resolving the South China Sea issue.

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to steal the Sea, Chinese style

By Lieveillyn King, December 1, 2014 – 5:02 pm 

In history, countries have sought to increase their territory by bribery, chicanery, coercion and outright force of arms. But while many have sought to dominate the seas, from the Greek city states to the mighty British Empire, none has ever, in effect, tried to take over an ocean or a sea as its own. 
But that is what China is actively doing in the ocean south of the mainland: the South China Sea. Bit by bit, it is establishing hegemony over this most important sea where the littoral states — China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam — have territorial claims. 
The importance of the South China Sea is hard to overestimate. Some of the most vital international sea lanes traverse it; it is one of the great fishing areas; and the ocean bed, near land, has large reserves of oil and gas. No wonder everyone wants a piece of it — and China wants all of it. 
Historically China has laid claim to a majority of the sea and adheres to a map or line — known as the nine-dash map, the U-shape line or the nine-dotted line — that cedes most of the ocean area and all of the island land to it. The nine-dash map is a provocation at best and a blueprint for annexation at worst. 
The mechanism for China’s filching of one of the great seas of the world is control of the three island archipelagos, the Paracel, Spratly and Pratas islands, and several other smaller outcroppings, as well as the seamounts, called the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal. Between them, they consist of about 250 small islands, atolls, keys, shoals, sandbars and reefs. Very few of these are habitable or have indigenous people. Some are permanently submerged, and many are only exposed at low tide. 
Yet if China can claim title to them, it can use them to extend its hegemony into the area around them. First, it can claim the standard 12 miles of territorial waters around each land mass and it also can claim an economic zone of influence of 200 miles from the most dubious “island.” Ergo, China can connect the dots and grab a large chunk of the South China Sea. 
China is reclaiming land – actually building a new artificial island — in the disputed Spratly Islands. The two-mile-long island will have an airfield that, China's foreign ministry claims, will be used for air-sea operations. The other claimants, think otherwise, especially Vietnam. The United States has called for China to halt the island project. 
China has been both stealthy and obvious about its strategy. It has increased its trade with the claimants; and in some cases has made generous contributions to their infrastructure development, but not in the South China Sea. In its maritime provocations, China has been careful to use its coast guard, not its navy, as it extends its grasp on the archipelagos, and inches forward to total domination of anything that looks like land in the waters off its southern coast. 
The Philippines has sought international legal redress under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a treaty which the United States has not ratified, limiting its legal maneuvering, according to Barry Nolan of the Boston Forum, a policy analysis group that has studied the South China Sea crisis this year. China denies the legitimacy of international law in what is says is an internal matter. 
To my mind, we are seeing is a new kind of imperialism from China, a gradual annexation of whatever it wants; quiet aggression, just short of war but relentless. This is China's modus operandi in Southeast Asia, Africa and other places. It squeezes gently and then with greater strength, like a lethal constrictor snake. 
Southeast Asian countries are arming, but China’s naval forces are growing faster. Also, it has the cash and the people to do what it wants. The U.S. “pivot to Asia” has done little to reassure China’s neighbors. Their nervousness is compounded by the ease with which Russia was able to annex Crimea and is proceeding into Eastern Ukraine unchecked. What’s to stop China grabbing some useless islands, and then a whole sea? 

The ancient concept of oceans as commons is under threat. The Chinese dragon walks and swims. — For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate
  • Saturday, November 29, 2014

    Vietnam, the US, and Japan in the South China Sea

    Prospects for regional security hinges heavily on how these actors relate to the South China Sea issue.

    Between May and July 2014, China unilaterally deployed a giant drilling rig in waters claimed by Vietnam as its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The move led to a fierce confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese government vessels and saw relations between the two countries deteriorate to their lowest point since 1988. The standoff also served as a litmus test to identify who will side with whom in this conflict. While most of the world remained neutral, several states came out in support of Vietnam in one form or another. Among these supporters, the United States and Japan stood out as the most powerful and staunchest.
    The fault line between Vietnam, the U.S., and Japan on one side and China on the other can be seen as one between status quo and revisionist powers. The former share the same objective of maintaining the balance of power that has kept the region in peace for the last two decades. China, with its long period of rapid economic growth in the last three decades, appears to be determined to use its newfound power to assert its sovereignty claims, which in end effect would amount to its dominance of the region. The prospects for regional security hinges heavily on how these actors relate to the South China Sea (SCS) issue.
    The Stakes
    The prevailing narrative portrays the SCS issue as a territorial dispute driven by conflict over natural resources between the littoral states. This provides a very truncated picture that fails to illuminate the identity and motives of the stakeholders. Besides its economic value, the SCS also has an enormous strategic value for several countries and an increasing symbolic value for some of the disputants.
    China claims a vast area of the SCS that lies within a unilaterally drawn U-shape line as its own territories and waters, while Vietnam claims sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands and the EEZ and continental shelf surrounding its mainland’s coasts. The SCS is believed to be rich in fish stocks, energy reserves, and mineral ores. Some estimates put the oil and gas reserves in the SCS at about 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s. With roughly ten percent of the world’s catch, the region also has one of the largest fishing stocks in the world.
    The SCS constitutes one of the inner seas that lie within what China’s strategic planners and analysts term the “first island chain.” Offering easy access to the industrial centers of the country, these maritime zones are critical to the defense of the Chinese homeland against invaders coming from the seas. The SCS is even more important to the defense of Vietnam. If it is sometimes likened to China’s backyard, it is literally the front door to Vietnam.
    The SCS has strategic value not only for the littoral states but also for other regional and major powers from outside. The shortest shipping routes between the Indian and the Pacific Ocean, the sea lines of communication that pass through the SCS carry nearly one-third of world trade and a half of the global oil and gas shipping. Not only the economies of Southeast Asia but also those of Northeast Asia are heavily dependent on these trading routes. About 80 percent of the oil and gas imports of China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are shipped through the SCS.
    While all players in the SCS issue share a large stake in its waterways, powers with hegemonic ambitions such as the United States and China have an additional interest based on the strategic value of those sea lines. Given its location as a chokepoint on the Asian lifeline and one of the global arteries, control of access to the SCS is a sine qua non for naval supremacy in the Western Pacific, which in turn is a critical pillar of regional primacy in East Asia.
    Besides its economic and strategic value, the SCS also has an enormous symbolic value for China and Vietnam. Conflicts and stakes in this region have made it a strong symbol of identity for both nations. Vietnam, for example, has declared the Paracel and Spratly Islands to be its territories in the new constitution of 2013.
    Vietnam’s Strategies
    No single strategy can describe how Vietnam is dealing with the SCS issue. Instead, Vietnam pursues a multitude of approaches that employ a wide range of mechanisms stretching from hard to soft power. At least seven distinct strategies can be identified.
    At the hard extreme of the spectrum, Vietnam tries to strengthen its presence and forces, both military and non-military, in the SCS. During the “scramble for the Spratlys” in 1988, when Beijing and Hanoi competed for foothold on the Spratly Islands, Vietnam set up permanent military garrisons on 11 land features in the archipelago, increasing its possessions here from 10 to 21 land features. From 1989 to 1991, Vietnam went out to occupy six underwater shoals on its continental shelf southwest of the Spratlys by putting up permanent high-pillar structures and manning them with garrisons. Slowly but surely, Vietnam continues to consolidate and increase its presence in these areas with more troops, facilities, equipment, and civilians. Since 2007, Vietnam started to populate the largest of its possessions in the Spratly Islands with permanent civilian habitants. Taking a leaf out of China’s playbook, Vietnam decided in 2012 to create a fisheries surveillance force as a third force, after the navy and the coast guard, to patrol its maritime waters, and in 2014, after the oil rig crisis, to lightly arm these vessels. To build a minimum deterrent force on the sea, Vietnam continued to modernize its navy and air force. A key element in this deterrent force is a submarine fleet it is building with six Kilo-class vessels.
    Vietnam is well aware that it cannot rely on military force alone to deter China. One strategy to compensate for this deficit is to get powerful third parties involved. Vietnam’s application of this strategy is, however, limited to the oil and gas industry in the SCS only. But perhaps Hanoi has no other option but to give concessions in the oil blocks that lie within China’s U-shaped line to large companies from major powers, something it has done so far to ExxonMobil from the United States, ONGC from India, and Gazprom from Russia. The extent to which Vietnam has limited its pursuit of this strategy is remarkable; it has repeatedly pledged that it will not form an alliance with any other country against a third party, a coded statement to reassure China of Vietnam’s non-aligned posture.
    Instead of forming alliances with powerful partners, Vietnam places more emphasis on internationalization of the issue to interlock and deter China. During most of the 1990s and 2000s, Vietnam remained largely modest in its attempt to internationalize the SCS issue. But responding to Chinese assertiveness in the region since 2008, Vietnam has become increasingly proactive and determined to bring the issue to the world’s attention and enlist the support of foreign partners. For example, international conferences on the SCS issue have become a thriving industry in Vietnam since 2009. Hanoi has also tried to include the SCS issue as an agenda item in its talks – and as a rhetorical device, in the joint statements – with most other foreign governments. Starting with the ASEAN and ARF meetings, international forums such as EAS, APEC, the UN, and ASEM have become diplomatic battlegrounds for Vietnam over the SCS dispute.
    Vietnam’s effort to internationalize and multilateralize the issue does not come at the expense of its bilateral dialogues with China. Not only does Vietnam take advantage of all possible channels to talk with China, it is also proud of being able to maintain those channels. Besides the government-to-government channel, Vietnam also cultivates ties between the two Communist Parties and the two militaries to keep special access to China. The uniqueness of the party-to-party and the military-to-military relations between Vietnam and China lies in the fact that both sides emphasize their ideological bonds and, particularly for the militaries, their common interests in opposing the West. With regard to negotiation to resolve the territorial disputes, Vietnam accepts a bilateral approach to the Paracel Islands while insisting on a multilateral approach to the Spratly Islands, arguing that the multilateral nature of the dispute over the latter requires multilateral negotiation.
    Toward the soft end of the spectrum, self-restraint and self-constraint to reassure China is also a key element in Vietnam’s approach to the SCS. Hanoi’s political leaders and military strategists reason that China, mindful of its superior forces, will seize the moment when Hanoi lets itself be provoked to escalate the conflict and overwhelm Vietnam. But for Hanoi, self-restraint and self-constraint are not only a tactic to avoid being provoked; they are a systematic approach based on the belief that it can convince Beijing of Hanoi’s benign intentions. Hanoi has, for instance, tried to erase public memories of Vietnam’s military conflicts with Communist China, both on the land borders and in the SCS during the 1970s and 1980s. To reassure Beijing, Hanoi has also unilaterally set tight limits on its room of action. One example is its “three no’s” policy, under which Vietnam vows not to participate in any military alliance, not to allow any foreign military bases on its soil, and not ally with any other country against a third country.
    Softer than self-restraint, deference is also a principal element of Vietnam’s strategy toward China. Many Vietnamese leaders and strategists argue that combining resistance with deference is key to Vietnam’s ability to survive in China’s shadow for thousands of years. Acts of deference signaled Vietnam’s acceptance of its subordinate position to China in a hierarchy of states, and Hanoi continues to show deference to Beijing. Two recent examples include visits to China by Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh in the wake of the oilrig crisis. Minh used a trade fair in Nanning, China to go to China before traveling to the United States in September 2014. In October, Thanh led a delegation of thirteen high-ranking military officers to China, preceding the long-planned visit to Vietnam by the U.S. secretary of defense in November.
    While preparing for the contingency of a military showdown with China in the SCS, Vietnam hopes that ideological bonds will prevent the worst and serve to isolate, compartmentalize, and attenuate the conflict. Predicated on solidarity between the two communist regimes, this strategy enjoys powerful support among the military leadership and Communist Party conservatives. The underlying thinking is best articulated by General Le Van Dung, then-head of the Political General Directorate of the Vietnam People’s Army. In an interview in December 2009, Dung said: “As concerns our issue with China in the East Sea, we are trying our best to resolve it, and in the near future we will be discussing, negotiating, and delimit the maritime borders with our friend. So the situation will be gradually stabilized and we keep strengthening our relations with China in order to fight the common enemy.” Although China’s increasing assertiveness in the SCS, most notably its deployment of the HSYS-891 drilling rig in Vietnamese waters during the summer of 2014, has shattered much of Vietnam’s trust in Beijing, the military leadership in Hanoi continues to cling to solidarity as a strategy to deal with Beijing and the SCS issue.
    None of these strategies has been pursued to its fullest capacity, and the intensity and scope with which they have been practiced has varied over time. For most of the period between 1990 and 2008, Vietnam did little to internationalize the issue. The strategies most salient during this period were a gradual and low-key consolidation of presence and forces, self-restraint and self-constraint, and solidarity. The rising tide of tensions since 2009 has changed the intensity and scope of Vietnam’s strategies, with a focus now on strengthening of presence and forces and internationalization. Overall, Vietnam’s approach to the SCS issue combines deterrence with reassurance. While having stabilizing effects, this “hedging” approach has its own problems: Combining deterrence and reassurance undermines the credibility of both. With the increasing tension in the last few years, this hedging approach has proven increasingly ineffective, creating growing frustration with the policy.
    The U.S. Commitment
    The United States stands out among outside stakeholders to the SCS with its intense interest in the region. Since 2010, American leaders have repeatedly declared that Washington has a “strong national interest” in freedom of navigation and a “strong interest” in the peaceful and lawful settlement of the disputes there. Both the U.S. economy and U.S. global power and regional primacy in the Asia-Pacific depend to various extents on freedom and peace in the waterways running through the SCS.
    In fact, the impact of a blockade in the SCS on the U.S. economy would be significant but not extremely high. Less tangible but more important is the role of the SCS for U.S. global power. U.S. naval supremacy in the Western Pacific, of which the SCS is a critical part, is a key to its regional primacy in the Indo-Pacific, which in turn is a major pillar undergirding the U.S.-led liberal world order. Important as it is, this link from the SCS to U.S. interests is not direct and not very visible and tangible. This fact makes it harder to convince the American public of the significance of the SCS to their interests.
    American commitment to the SCS is limited by the U.S. need for breathing space after two expensive wars and a severe economic crisis. China has acted to take advantage of this virtual power vacuum, intensifying its revisionist actions in the region. However, as those revisionist actions become more visible to the American public, U.S. commitment to this critical region may once again strengthen.
    Japan’s Role
    Japan’s interests in the SCS derive primarily from its dependence on the waterways there and its preference for a U.S.-led regional order. If China dominates this chokepoint, it will be able to switch off at will about 60 percent of Japan’s energy supplies, and it will likely replace the United States as the sponsor and leader of a new regional order. A Chinese-led regional order will most likely be far less liberal and favorable to Japan than the current U.S.-led order. Japan thus shares with both the United States and Vietnam a strong interest in maintaining the status quo in the region. What role can Japan play in maintaining stability in the SCS?
    First, Japan – and the United States, for that matter – is ill-suited to act as an honest broker to the dispute. The honest broker must be trusted as such by both sides of the dispute, and Japan hardly fits that bill with China, particularly given its own dispute with China in the East China Sea.
    Second, Japan is unable to play the role of an external deterrent. Lacking nuclear weapons and perhaps more dependent on China economically than vice versa, Japan is simply unable to deter China in general.
    Balancing, therefore, remains the only possible role for Japan to play. Japan is willing to support Vietnam against China, as evidenced byTokyo’s provision of coast guard ships as gifts to Vietnam during its oilrig crisis with China recently.  But does Japan, even when joining forces with Vietnam, have the capacity to balance China? This is an interesting question that needs more study, but a look at the combined military and economic power of the two suggests that they cannot. China possesses several key advantages over a Japan-Vietnam coalition, most obviously its nuclear weapons and its central role in Asia’s economy.
    The most effective role for Japan to play in the SCS is to facilitate a coalition with the United States, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries that share a common interest in maintaining the status quo. Only a U.S.-led coalition can balance Chinese power in the region. Given its high stakes in the SCS – and the perception of those stakes by its elites – Japan is likely to be willing to play this role. But there is an issue with the coalition leader: With its geographic and psychological distance to the SCS, Washington may be the least willing among this coalition’s members. This may be a factor that prevents the coalition from unilaterally escalating the conflict, but it may also be a factor that encourages China to underestimate the resolve of its rivals and become dangerously provocative.
    That in turn suggests the potential for a new era of instability and tension in the SCS, with each stakeholder playing their own role.
    Alexander L. Vuving is an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Government.

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    Q&A: Peter Navarro on America's Death by China

    Workers on a production line at a toy factory in China
    Photograph by AFP/Getty
    Workers on a production line at a toy factory in China
    Bloomberg Businessweek speaks with Peter Navarro, a business professor at theUniversity of California, Irvine, about his new documentary Death By China. The film, based on the eponymous book he co-authored with Greg Autry in 2011, opened in Los Angeles on Aug. 17 and comes to New York on Aug. 24. Reviews have described it as “a lucid wake-up call” and criticized it for being “heavy handed” and containing “xenophobic hysteria.” Navarro reponds, “The film accurately depicts the devastation China’s unfair trade practices are having on Americans. Critics giving bad reviews should get out into the heartland of America more. Viewers are deeply moved by the film if our L.A. opening is any indicator.”
    Poster for the movie 'Death By China'Poster for the movie 'Death By China'
    Death By China. That’s a pretty grim prognosis. Is China killing us?
    We’re billing this as the feel-good movie of the year. [Laughs.] There’s nothing subtle about what’s happening. It’s an economic death because of China’s unfair trade practices and the loss of the U.S. manufacturing base. Also, literal death because of the loss of consumer safety: toothpaste, baby formula, a dizzying array of products. There are also human rights abuses—China’s forced labor camps. There’s a chilling discovery in the film about how people are being taken out of labor camps and their organs are harvested. Also, the military buildup of China. It’s an evocative title, yes, and it has multiple meanings.
    Is it about declining U.S. dominance?
    That would be jingoistic. It doesn’t matter to me who’s the most powerful or profitable country in the world. All countries want to be prosperous. What’s happening is a zero-sum game between China and the U.S. where their gain is our loss. It’s about the fact that we don’t make things any more, that we lost our manufacturing base, the 25 million people who can’t find a decent job in this country, the zero wage growth. I want consumers to connect the dots, to go to any store and look at the label and connect the dots between buying cheap China products, which is better for the wallet, and all the other things we lose, like jobs.
    Some would argue that the U.S. shifting away from a manufacturing economy to a knowledge- and service-based economy is a good thing.
    The best counterfactual argument to that is Germany. Germany is one of the strongest, most stable economies, and 25 percent of their workforce is in manufacturing, compared with 9 percent in the U.S. The service-sector opium they tried to sell us in 1990s and early 2000s hasn’t worked. Manufacturing is the seed corn for other jobs in the U.S.
    Would you call yourself a protectionist?
    The way that my view on this is often derided is using the P word. It’s a very inflammatory word in my profession. There’s a big difference between self-defense against unfair trade practices and protectionism. The biggest protectionist in the world now is China. If you want to go into China now, you can’t without a joint venture Chinese partner, and you have to give them your tech. The logical result of that is they take your IP and then you’re obsolete. This is not protectionist; it’s self-defense against a very mercantilist trading partner.
    Is calling you a Democrat just as inflammatory? 
    The greatest compliment is I am accused of being a Dem leftie and a Republican righty. I am a pragmatist. I call it as I see it. This country needs more of that. I am a Democrat. I ran for Congress in 1996 as a Democrat. Both parties have failed us in the same way. We’re really careful in the movie to make this a nonpartisan issue. It’s an American problem, not a Democrat or Republican issue.
    When was the last time you went to China?
    I went back just before the release of the Coming China Wars in 2006. Once I wrote that book … it’s dangerous for me to go back there. My co-author Greg Autry was followed, and they searched his room. Some think this movie is too strong, but it’s not. It’s a serious national security issue. I don’t go back to China. I understand the country at some level. And a lot of my colleagues are wined and dined, but it’s Beijing and Shanghai, and that’s it. You have to get out in the countryside to know what’s going on.

    Sunday, October 26, 2014

    Book Review: The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia

    Written by David Brown
    FRI,24 OCTOBER 2014
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    By Bill Hayton. Yale University Press, Hard cover, 263 pp, US$29.13 on Amazon
    In any short list of global headaches, China's quest for hegemony in the South China Sea ought to be up there with climate change, jihadis and the Ebola virus. It's seemingly intractable, yet solving it has become the critical test of whether the international order can accomodate a 'rising China.'

    Sunday, September 28, 2014

    Blocking China’s salami-slicing tactics on the South China Sea require region-wide cooperation

     YaleGlobal: Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet in Washington early October. The two nations, at war more than 40 years ago, now find common interest in protecting open sea lanes in the South China Sea. China asserts sweeping claims, going as far as to construct new islets and impose limitations on the use of other nations’ exclusive economic zones. China signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the United States has not. “Kerry and Minh should work out a middle course that protects US policy autonomy while maintaining balance in the region,” writes former US diplomat David Brown. Diplomacy and increased US engagement could include training regional coast guards with the aim of minimizing risky maneuvers that could trigger greater conflict, lifting a ban on weapons sales to Vietnam, encouraging joint explorations for oil and gas and encouraging multilateral fisheries management. In the meantime, Brown urges Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines to waste no time in sorting out their own competing claims.

    Blocking China’s salami-slicing tactics on the South China Sea require region-wide cooperation
    David Brown / YaleGlobal, 25 September 2014
    Battle over waters: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh will meet in early October to discuss the South China Sea (top); earlier in the summer China's coast-guard ships rammed a Vietnamese  vessel near a Chinese oil drilling rig
    FRESNO: When Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and US Secretary of State John Kerry meet in early October, China's aggressive behavior in the waters of Southeast Asia will top their agenda. In the months leading up to the meeting, Washington’s foreign policy elite have been debating whether it is in America’s interest to get involved in the dispute. The strategic implications of letting China have its sway are too serious for the US to adopt a binary policy of going in all guns blazing or looking the other way. Kerry and Minh should work out a middle course that protects US policy autonomy while maintaining balance in the region.
    China is a rising power and its cooperation is essential in efforts to contain terrorism, slow climate change, curb nuclear proliferation and so on. But the US cannot ignore China's drive to establish hegemony over the seas that touch its shores. Cautiously in the East China Sea, where Japan, allied with the United States, is a formidable opponent, and confidently in the South China Sea, China has mounted a determined challenge to the international order expressed in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, and the notion that territorial disputes should be settled, not by force, but by negotiation or arbitration.
    Six years ago China presented a crude map to illustrate its claim to "indisputable sovereignty" over the area bounded by a nine-dash line enclosing 3.5 million square kilometers.
    With each year that's passed since then, China's upped the ante. Deploying hundreds of deep-sea fishing boats and many dozens of coast guard vessels, Beijing has challenged its neighbors' sovereignty over exclusive economic zones drawn according to UNCLOS rules. It has driven Vietnamese fishermen out of traditional fishing grounds, wrested the aquatic resources of Scarborough Shoal from Manila's control, harassed oil and gas exploration off Vietnam's central coast, and planted markers on James Shoal, 50 miles off the Malaysian coast and 2200 miles south of China's Hainan Island. This year China again proved its mastery of the tactical initiative, deploying a deep-sea oil drilling rig and an armada of escort vessels into waters near Vietnam's central coast while sending a flotilla of seagoing pumps, dredges and cement mixers further south with the mission of converting a handful of reefs into artificial islets.
    The US cannot ignore China's drive to establish hegemony over the seas that touch its shores.
    Beijing has been impervious to persuasion and angered by tough talk from US diplomats – from Hillary Clinton and Kerry on down. Xi Jinping's government may know that the records it relies on to support an "historic claim" to the South China Sea are legally untenable, but Chinese public opinion finds them persuasive. China's man in the street is furious that countries on the periphery of "China's South Sea" are "stealing China's resources" when they fish on the high seas or drill for offshore oil and gas.
    China, it seems, has no intention of submitting its sweeping territorial claims to rulings by international tribunals. It evidences little more interest in negotiating a Code of Conduct with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. At most, Chinese spokesmen have hinted at a disposition to be generous when and only when Vietnam or the Philippines acknowledge the superior merit of China's claims.
    It has thus become impossible to regard the South China Sea as an inconsequential sideshow to a hoped-for entente between the United States and the emergent Chinese superpower. The conflict is not inconsequential – the sea lanes carry nearly half the world's commerce. Added now is profound worry that Beijing's steadily more aggressive tactics there and its dismissal, whenever inconvenient, of the rules of the international order reveal China’s true nature with which the international community must contend in other places in times to come. China's actions and attitudes have made confrontation in the South China Sea a central concern of US diplomacy and strategic planning.
    China shows no intention of submitting sweeping claims to rulings by international tribunals.
    In the South China Sea, as elsewhere in the world, US engagement is essential if China's ambitions are to be effectively countered. Tough talk alone will not stiffen the ASEAN backbone nor impress Beijing.
    From a tactical perspective, the US has behaved as if there were no viable options in the large space between denunciation of Chinese provocations and deploying the 7th Fleet. China on the other hand has consistently exploited opportunities in the middle space. It has relied on paramilitary assets, coast guard ships and auxiliary "fishing boats," to further its sovereign ambitions while the Peoples Liberation Army Navy, PLAN, waits discreetly just over the horizon.
    Mimicking Chinese tactics, the US and Asian friends and allies could step up cooperation among their coast guards, prominently including a robust schedule of multilateral training exercises at sea. Military assistance that enhances Southeast Asian states' abilities to keep watch over their maritime frontiers will reduce China's capability to spring unpleasant surprises. Skillfully managed, such activities would, Carlyle Thayer has argued, "put the onus on China to decide the risk of confronting mixed formations of vessels and aircraft."
    Washington ought also to forge a much closer relationship with Vietnam, the only Southeast Asian country with both the military deterrent capacity and, assured of American backing, the will to stand up to China. China's drill-rig deployment in May stunned Hanoi's Communist leaders and may have tipped the Politburo balance against continued strenuous efforts to appease Beijing.
    A higher profile of American engagement vis-à-vis China in the South China Sea ought to reinforce diplomacy.
    Hanoi and Washington have been courting since summer of 2012 and that intensified this summer. Largely for reasons of face – Vietnam doesn't like being lumped in with North Korea, Iran, Syria and China – it wants the US to drop its ban on lethal weapons sales. Washington, meanwhile, has conditioned such sales on "movement" on human-rights issues – an issue also likely to figure in Kerry-Minh talk.
    Forging a strategic entente is not easy for either Hanoi or Washington. Each must give a bit on political rights. Yet, with the wolf at Hanoi's door, pragmatic adjustments may lay the foundation of an effective counter to Beijing's drive for hegemony over the South China Sea and domination of adjacent nations.
    The US has already intervened effectively in support of the Philippines. Steps to upgrade and reinforce Philippine maritime surveillance and self-defense capabilities have had a tonic effect, allaying concerns that Manila may engage in risky, desperate behavior.
    A higher profile of American engagement vis-à-vis China in the South China Sea ought to reinforce diplomacy. In that respect, the US could press Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines to sort out their claims among themselves. It could foster initiatives to draw Chinese authorities into discussions of multilateral management of rapidly depleting ocean fisheries and Chinese firms into joint exploration of the seabed for oil and gas.
    There's no way for the United States to engage more actively in the South China Sea issues without angering China. That would probably have short-term negative consequences for US-China cooperation in other arenas, though Beijing is unlikely to refrain from cooperation that is in its own interest in order to punish Washington. The longer-term consequences of limiting China's overweening ambition will be salutary – Beijing will understand that it cannot rewrite the rules of international relations at will. 
    David Brown is a retired American diplomat who writes on contemporary Vietnam. He may be reached at

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014


    (*) Please, note that the term of "East Sea" is used in stead of  "South China Sea" by the author of this article. Thank you.   

    This map describes the litoral states' territorial and marine claims basing on the Convention of Law of  the Sea 
    China on its sway in the East Sea 

    Recent news show Chinese forces hurriedly turning reefs and rocks in middle of the East Sea into floating islands and military bases sitting across international marine lines in and out from the Malacca Strait. China has so far proved successful with its acrobatic trick of "turning from nothing into something". With those newly built basis Chinese forces can shorten distances of only about 830 and 890 km to HCM City and Manila respectively, merely 490 km to Western Malaysia and not too far to reach Malacca Strait.

    Satellite photographs show  Chinese workers, vehicles and equipment all together pushing up reclaimed lands and concrete structures at the Johson Reef  and others once belonged to Vietnam but invaded by Chinese in 1988.
    Chinese medias openly advertise that Johnson Reef  used to be a small submerge rock but of an extremely important position has  now being built into a  strategic base. Reports reveal the PLA's South China Sea Fleet amphibious ships disguised as civilian vessels took 25 days to transport tanks 072 onto the Johnson Reef. The Qingdao Newspaper said that the artificial island base was blue-printed by the Planning Institute of Chinese Naval Design. China Press also pretend that once J-11 fighter jets are arranged here, the entire East Sea is within its combat. 
    Chau Vien rock image taken on July 19, 2014 by  the China Observations network 

    According to the Taiwan News Agency, 6 Sept.,  former Deputy Defense Minister Lin Chung Bin called the 6 "islandized" reefs in Spratlys "a dangerous move" by turning them into trump carts and significantly enhancing ability to control the entire East Sea chess-board. He said that the type of fighters in Chinese military personnel present as J-11 or J-16 are of combat radius of about 1500 km. Once they are placed at this newly built base will help the combat scope of China's military  covering  the entire Southeast Asia. On the other hand, China can fully installed radar and eavesdropping equipment in these locations that Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines are within the radar sights of China. 
    a sky view image taken recently of the Johnson Reef  (Source: Internet)

    The Singapore Morning Paper said that on completion of the reclamation works, Chinese Army will build it like the Woody Island base with long-range search radar, signal stations and eavesdropping radar and radio. By then, all the countries around the East Sea extending to the Straits of Malacca and Singapore are all put within their eavesdropping range radio signals and warfare. At that time the entire South China Sea will turn into a "lake of China". 

    The newspaper also said that with the Johnson Reef  tuned into an artificial islands, the Chinese Navy will push its frontline bases in the East Sea southwards by 850 km, and if  the American fleets from northern Indian Ocean entering the Straits of Malacca they will be falling within the monitoring of long-range reconnaissance aircraft and radio stations  of the PLA. 

    The paper also commented that Johnson Reef  of 5 km long, 0.4 km wide is relatively large enough for the Chinese to built up a 2 km long runway for heavy combat aircraft like  Su-30, J-11, J-10. This will put entire Straits of Malacca  in their combat radius, and Vietnam will lose its depth combat in this region. At the same time, northeast side of this island is good enough for building military harbors and docks capable to accommodate large frigates

    Besides, think a bit to see that with the Chinese military presence there,  the Itu Aba island now  illegally  occupied by Taiwan  only 72 km away can be easily attacked and taken over by the Chinese when they need. That will certainly enhance considerably Beijing's military posture in the region. 

    In stead of playing the role of a super power China chooses to play as a bullying big boy

    According to the Former Deputy Minister of National Defense of Taiwan Lin Chung Bin, during a recent meeting of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping has launched a new concept: Protect high points in maritime strategic necessity, China's interests overseas  become reasonable extension . In line with this strategy of 10 "high point" in the East Sea, China (main land) has been turning the 6  reefs in the Spratlys into floating islands. 
    The  Taiwan News Agency on 2 Sept. cited the editorials of the People's Daily newspaper calling  the ninth meeting of the Politburo on 29 August  the "learning phase of collective thematic focused on the military". During this session, Xi Jinping said that cultural and operational information is synthesized primarily military movements in the future, the Chinese military should focus on building real strength battle, just like new enlisted maximum external conditions. 

    The People's Daily newspaper also said that the national interest of China is constantly challenged by the United States, and even both Japan and the Philippines are invasive and therefore increasing the urgency of military reform. Xi  considered it an important development and emphasized  military creativity as well as to deal with the menace in the future. 

    Also in this session, Xi Jinping introduced the new concept of "four changes" aimed at setting 4 ideological direction of the war of information and setting  ideas, views, synthetic strategies security countries. Xi also emphasized the concept of "real war" in the military establishment on the basis of ideology, "the entire army as one chess --board, the entire nation as one chess-board." 

    Not arguing the validity of the new concept of leader Xi Jinping one can feel the aggressiveness  right in the above-mentioned terms that send out unhealthy signals to China's neighboring states and the world as well. 

    In another noticeable event, while recently visiting Australia on 7 Sept. Foreign Minister Wang Yi  offered a new proposal called "4 respects"  urging the world to perform four respects: (1) respect history; (2) respect  international law; (3) respect direct bilateral negotiations between the parties involved; and (4) respect efforts to maintain peace and stability in the East Sea of China and ASEAN. 
    Wang Yi's "4 respects" sound so hypocritical that nobody could believe him. Comparing this "4 respects" with reality one could see that it is very China who has been violating them systematically for many years now. If China truly wants the "4 respects" then there would be no problem with the East Sea. And there are contradictions right in the statements of  Mr. Wang Yi and his leader Xi Jinping's doctrine of "strategic high points"  and "overseas interest extension".  
    Once again, these make people see the Chinese as real masters of the behavior of "speaking one way and doing another way". 
    Let's recall that after the Vietnam War, the United States, for subjective and objective reasons, had withdrawn its forces almost entirely out of  Southeast Asia and partially from Western Pacific region. However, in stead of replacing the vaccum by peaceful means, China deliberately used force by   using "American threat" to prevent regional countries, particularly Vietnam, to improve relations with the United States. This way of  behaviour is so ridiculous, but quite effective for China's conspiracy to monopolize the East Sea. 
    Without fearing  any individual regional country as well as collective ASEAN, except the United States, Beijing has been using the disguised notion of "bilateral negotiations" and "joint development" between related regional countries  in order to rule out the American role in settling the East Sea dispute . At the same time China has actively played the policy of  "divide and rule" to weaken ASEAN . Most ASEAN member countries, including the Philippines and Vietnam as two main elements also felt into this tricky trap. Vietnam in particular finds itself difficult to maintain balance between its territorial interests and political ideology, thus being repeatedly used as a card by China. 

    How to cope with the aftermath? 

    Perhaps ASEAN and the world, including the United States have until now realized the real intention of China using the strategic location of the Johnson Reef. But it turns out rather late now to deal with. The hesitant attitude of a divided collective ASEAN in recent years, and most recently they agreed not to discuss the American proposal to "freeze" the East Sea status just because of an unreasonable reason that ASEAN has already had DOC and  are discussing COC with the China(!). 

    Remember over the past decade, ASEAN and the world have been passively  running after to  deal with tricky measures set up by Beijing itself but has never put out any collective action that can help preventing the situation getting worse and worse.  Only one instrument reached between ASEAN and China is  the DOC more than ten years ago.  But this includes merely cliché absolutely without any deterrent effect whereas serving as a good excuse for China to buy time for its territory encroaching. Series of Chinese aggressive acts, sometimes with the Philippines, sometimes with Vietnam, are mainly for the purpose of maritime encroachment, not for fishing or natural resources purposes as they pretend. After invasion and occupation of the entire Paracel in 1974, China invaded 6 rocks at the Paracel in 1988, then some positions near the eastern Philippines, including Mischief which Beijing called "Chung Sa". The most blatant action took place in 2011 when Beijing unilaterally proclaimed the so-called "Sansha City" and sice then sending  tens of thousands of ships  across the East Sea as  a kind of civilian war of aggression. This act of war happens constantly even deep inside waters of Vietnam, the Philippines and other litoral states while China unilaterally ban boats from other countries. 
    The Haiyang 981 oil rigs event  in May showed China's  extravaganza, despite laws and international public opinion. But looking closely at the whole intrigue of China, one may see it only the old tactic "talk East, do West" of the ancient Chinese.  

    International roles are needed for settlement of the East Sea disputes 

    ASEAN has so far proved far from a matching rival of China and  not an appropriate mechanism to deal with the East Sea dispute in a fair, equitable with China. If anything, it needs more participation from outside of the region, particularly the role of international institutions including international courts and UN. 
    However, it is regrettable that so far the world has proved powerless against China as the second super power allowing itself to violate many international laws, including the Law of the Sea, the rules of marine ecological environment, the right to livelihood of fishermen, the use of force, etc... 

    As for the East Sea dispute,  China has come up from having no position in the East Sea to having a "city" and military bases across the East Sea. This outcome seems surprising and difficult to deal with not only for Vietnam, the Philippines and ASEAN but also for the world when the Chinese fox has already put not only its feet but also its whole body into the the blanket of East Sea. Whether someone has enough power and capacity to force or request Beijing to back off or maintain the status quo in the East Sea? Probably not. Perhaps hopes may come from some factors outside the region. Beside the United States with its "axis rotation", other  medium power states  having direct interests in the East Sea like Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, ect ... will come up to cooperate with ASEAN in specific practical measures  to protect freedom of navigation in the East Sea . This is the most modest goals may be. 
    The "cow tongue" dotted lines printed on pages of China's new Passport (Source: Internet)

    Perhaps, when a super power refusing to play by the rules,  collective pressure of the international community can take more effect. Let's hope the world waking up to deal with the sleeping lion that has now wakened up and posing serious thread in monopolising the entire East Sea. Would the world accept one day people or boats and aircraft when came in and out of this sea will have to wait for Chinese visa? Ofcourse not!

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