Editorial, Opinion – The Chinese media has reacted with predictable outrage to the news that 11 Chinese fishermen are to be prosecuted in the Philippines for their crimes. The men were arrested 100km off the Palawan coast, with over 500 protected sea turtles in their boat, most of which were dead.
An article, published by the Xinhua state press agency on Wednesday, explains their displeasure in terms that are both unwavering and chilling. The article is full of self-justification and barely veiled threats, the sort of rhetoric reminiscent, not of the Cold War, but rather more worryingly, the imperialist posturing that blighted the first half of the 20th century:
“In a reckless move that further undermined the peace of South China Sea, Manila went ahead with a premeditated plot to provoke Beijing in a vain wish to infringe upon China’s sovereignty.”
“Last week, Philippine police detained 11 Chinese fishermen and their boat near China’s Half Moon Shoal in the South China Sea on the grounds that they poached sea turtles.”
“But no matter the allegation was true or not, Manila was wrong in the first place because China has indisputable sovereign rights over the Nansha (Spratly) Islands and the adjacent waters, including the Half Moon Shoal, where the incident occurred.”
“Thus any actions taken by the Philippines against the Chinese fishermen are illegal and invalid and would be regarded as direct infringements of China’s sovereignty.”
The article goes on to mock the failed efforts of the Filipino and Vietnamese delegations to raise support from other ASEAN countries at the recent summit and to stand up to China’s bullying of its smaller neighbours.
The article stresses how reasonable China is being, in the face of such provocation, but continues with a chilling threat:
“While reiterating calls for peaceful settlement of the dispute and joint development of resources, China has also made it clear that it is confident and capable of countering challenges to its territorial and sovereign integrity.”
“All parties should also be reminded that ignorance of China’s resolve to defend its sovereign land will induce consequences too severe for certain countries to bear.”
The article ends with a warning to the US:
“Instead of spoiling its increasingly-paranoid junior ally and muddying the waters, Washington should keep Manila within bounds and try not to stir up tensions by backing it in territorial dispute.”
“After all, it won’t serve Washington’s interests if the dispute in the South China Sea spins out of control.”
It is ironic indeed, that a country which has suffered so much in its resolve to resist imperialist and colonialist aggression over the last century, should now seem happy to inflict the same on any weaker nation that does not kowtow to its demands.
Nowhere in the claim to China’s ‘indisputable sovereign rights’ is mention made to these islands being over 1200km from the nearest Chinese land mass, yet only 100km from the Philippine coast. Perhaps their next step will be to declare the main island of Palawan to be a suburb of Beijing?
As long as the world continues to ignore the rise of this Chinese Empire, we will surely find ourselves living in interesting times.
UPDATE 16th May 2014 – A Chinese state-run newspaper took the threats to a new level on Friday by supporting the use of “non-peaceful” measures against Vietnam and the Philippines, clearly suggesting the possibility of war in the South China Sea.
“The South China Sea disputes should be settled in a peaceful manner, but that doesn’t mean China can’t resort to non-peaceful measures in the face of provocation from Vietnam and the Philippines,” the Global Times newspaper wrote in an editorial.
In a bizarre conclusion, the paper added, “Many people believe that a forced war would convince some countries of China’s sincerely peaceful intentions.”
If China is genuinely sincere in it’s peaceful intentions, it needs to drop the threats, drop the bullying and drop the puffed up imperialist showboating! Get round a table and talk about the only chance of a peaceful solution, a sharing of the fishing rights and a joint development of the region’s resources for the benefit of all! Then and only then, will the rest of the world be able to believe anything they have to say.
UPDATE 17th May 2014 – Following the recent anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam, we must ensure that this dispute remains between the Philippines and Chinese governments and not between the Filipino and Chinese people. We have to ensure that anything like the events in Vietnam do not occur here.
The only way the Philippines can hope to win an argument with the Chinese government, and by extension, it’s military, is by force of argument and by holding the international moral high ground. The Filipino people will only maintain that by not becoming the bullies and stooping to the level of those that would force their will upon others.
Newspapers around the world are today reporting the peaceful protests outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila on Friday and the issues that provoked it. The South China Sea disputes are gaining world attention and the most effective way to persuade the Chinese government to negotiate a peaceful resolution will be the condemnation of the international community. Isolating themselves over this issue will damage the Chinese economy and a hit to the wallet is where it hurts the most.