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A very observant post.|
China's image of a peaceful panda ruling his part of the bamboo grove, as envisoned by Deng Xiaoping, has been dramatically shattered, beginning with China's strong response to the Philippine Navy's attempt to arrest Chinese fishermen in Huangyan (Scarborough) Shoal, using a newly bought US skipper renamed after a Philppine general. Although there was restraint by both sides, China clearly had no intent of backing down on retaining its sovereignty over Huangyan, on the basis of hsitorical facts it had on file, that Huangyan had always been a part of Chinese sovereign territory, even if, according to modern criteria, created by the West to favor its claims over vast territories around the world, that if any ancient country could not demonstrate effective control over an island or land it had legal soverignty on, such sovereignty, somehow, mysteriously, would be considered to have lapsed after 50 some years. Yes, it is a rule, but it is a rule that is not based on any higher rule, and is thus, in effect, an "arbitrary rule", that for all intents and purposes, is nothing more than a "self-serving rule", or in effect, a "diktat" and not a binding obligation on China to respect. Huangyan falls into this category, because Chinese fisherman have been fishing in its vicinity since the Ming era or earlier, and while they had been intermittently driven away or captured by the Philippine Navy, China, being weak and poor, had not made any attempts to secure the area militarily to safeguard the rights of its citizens fishing in that area. Now that China has the naval power to protect its citizens, for the first time in some five hundred years, the Filipinos and their allies are surprised, and even indignant, that the Chinese navy is now in Huangyan, exercising "Chinese sovereignty" that they had believed had "lapsed" by the Western rule of 50 years of political and military inactivity.
Japan is making use of the Western colonial rule of 50 years to claim that it now owns Dioayudao, by the way. But what Japan could not prove is that the 50 year rule is itself valid. Besides, when Japan and China established diplomatic relations, they both agreed to disagree about Dioayudao, implying the matter of sovereignty was already in dispute even then.
But is China's newfound boldness based on its improved naval power?
Yes and no.
Yes, in that objectively, China's navy is the strongest it has ever been in the past 500 years.
No, in that China's navy remains unable to defend its islands against regional powers like Japan and Australia, or international powers, like America.
So, if China does not have enough firepower to fully defend its claims in the South China Sea, why is it asserting its sovereignty so boldly right now?
One reason is that the Philippines serendipitously forced China to use its improved naval power to defend its sovereignty over Huangyan. This forced Japan to break its "unspoken agreement" with China to remain mum about Dioayudao, for fear that China would next use its naval power to retake Dioayudao, in due time. Together, Japan and the Philippines gave Vietnam an indirect warning that its claims over many islands in the South China Sea may face challenge from the new Chinese Navy as well.
Against the voices for showing off Chinese naval power is the advice of Deng that China should never show off its power or try to resolve disputes with force against its neighbors. The sending of the naval vessels to Huangyan contradicts both policies of Deng. If he were alive, it would require a meeting at the highest level to reverse, and even so, not without his consent.
With the appearance of the oil rig of CNOOC in the South China Sea near Vietnam, the puzzle finds an plausible answer.
In the absence of Deng, it now appears that large SOEs like CNOOC can sway the consensus of the standing committee on matters of national, military and economic importance, in its favor.
In the drive to modernize China, SOEs and private corporations have been given special preference in the building of factories, and highways linking them to ports and distribution centers, sometimes causing massive dislocations of local residents, who are farmers or fishermen for the most part.
This has become quite common place that similar such behavior by CNOOC affecting only a few hundred fishermen at the most in the high seas seem too minor to merit serious high level deliberations, which occurred only after the repercussions on the military, diplomatic, and economic environment inside Vietnam became very widespread. By then, the Rubicon had been crossed, China had asserted its rightful sovereignty over its islands in the South China Sea, and is committed to defending its SOES and citizens in their pursuit of lawful activities on them and in their surrounding EEZ's. But, the damage to the image of China's Peacful Rise has already been done as well.
Seeking the cause of things is essential to solving their consequences, and avoiding similar debacles in the future. If a cause for public protests by peasants in China is the high handed manner in which some factory and construction projects have been implemented without regard to the livelihood of the farmers, then China should expect such protests to be magnified by a few orders when arising in an independent country that considers its sovereignty violated, even if by Chinese standards, they were not. Regardless of the financial aspects of their losses, added to the mix of disagreements with neighboring countries is now the manner in which their "sovereignty" had been violated, which never happens with the exercise of eminent domain by the state on behalf of capitalist investors.
Rather that merely talking about how to divide the pie that once belonged all to China, with Vietnam being a part of China as Annam for over a thousand years, the Sino-Vietnamese dialogue, at a non-official level, should be culturally oriented and focus on how the two sides can act and share as ONE FAMILY, with intermarriages between Vietnamese and Cantonese being still very prevalent. Finding a parallel in the world of diplomatic relations in the universe of family relationships is key to the resolution of the dispute, which modern theories of sovereignty are inadequate to address. The same with the Philippines, though less ethnically intermixed with China than Vietnam. Creating a "family of Chinese relatives" as most Vietnamese and Filipinos have Chinese blood in them, to some degree, is important to supplement the Western structure of sovereignty that favors the colonial powers at the expense of the colonized peoples. This is similar to the confraternity of the "English-speaking peoples" that Rudd found so critical to his assessment of whether China should be made to conform to the rules of his brotherhood, by force if necessary, not not. It is more tightly knit than just the Commonwealth, but less tightly bonded than say the fact that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom.
As it is, Vietnam and the Philippines are farther from China and Chinese culture than are North and South Korea, who are both wholeheartedly Confucian in orientation. Were it not for the predatory precepts of Shintoism, Japan and China would have been brothers in the 20th Century. In the matter of Japan, the object should be the defeat of Shintoism and its predatory practitioners, rather than the defeat of Japan as a nation. If other Japanese religions such as Buddhism (now hijacked by the Komeito leadership in subservience to Shinto) were to emerge as the ruling government, practically all the conflicts between Japan and China would be solvable without the use of arms. But wth the Shintoists believing that the surivival of Japan depends upon their conquest and invasion of China (a dangerous and false assumption), they have pitted all of their country and their countrymen against a China that they will never conquer, and can only end up as losers to. In either case, China has a bright future, no matter how bad the storms may be on the horizon. China has to keep its economy running, and avoid the pitfalls of unilateral revaluation of the Yuan agains the dollar that only benefits Japanese and Vietnamese manufacturers at the expense of Chinese manufacturers, not only in the international market, but also in China's domestic market. China has a bright future, and those who seek to diminish it will only end up extinguishing their own.