mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Game of Thrones
China Steps Up Intimidation of Neighbors in South China Sea Dispute

This past weekend a mysterious report emerged claiming that China plans to invade a South China Sea island controlled by the Philippines. The report, translated from “Chinese media” and appearing at a site called China Daily Mail, appears to threaten the Philippine forces occupying Pag-asa Island. Pag-asa is known as Zhongye Island in China, and Beijing claims that the Philippines has illegally occupied it for years. At about a tenth of a square mile, the island (pop: 300 civilians) is one of the larger ones in the Spratly Island group and is the only one with an airstrip long enough to accommodate larger planes.

The China Daily Mail report angrily denounces the Philippines for increasing its military presence on the island, claiming that the Philippine troops are supported by American forces. This is “an intolerable insult to China,” says the report.

Philippine officials refused to comment on the “unofficial” report. At the moment it’s far from clear that there’s any truth to it. But it follows a pattern of Chinese public intimidation of neighboring countries over territorial disputes. Last week, China’s Hainan province, a southern island that juts into the South China Sea and lies close to Vietnam, approved a new set of rules aimed at threatening foreign fishermen working in the vicinity. Hainan claimed that any foreigners fishing in waters near the Paracel and Spratly island chains, which are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, must ask the “relevant” Chinese agency for permission before they can work in the area. Vietnam fired back that any Chinese activity in the area was unacceptable: “All foreign activities at these areas without Vietnam’s acceptance are illegal and groundless.” Today the U.S. State Department called the new rules “provocative and potentially dangerous.”

Little by little, a cabbage grows in the South China Sea. China’s strategy—taking small steps toward the domination of the seas to its south and east—is progressing without drawing too much attention or retribution from the United States or smaller Pacific countries.

Features Icon
show comments
  • qet

    To quote Fred Thompson’s Admiral in The Hunt for Red October: This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.

  • Anthony

    The Feed ‘s implication reveals China causing regional concerns; what has happened given premise of “great commons” for both safe and prosperous free world trade. Cabbage grows brings to mind an observation: “indeed, for many years, the public rhetoric from Beijing was centered on China’s Peaceful Rise. Unlike the emergence of other great powers, China’s move to the front ranks of nation-states would not, the Chinese argued, be accompanied by a militancy aimed at displacing hegemonies.”

    • TommyTwo

      I flashed to a very recent article published here:

      When the chair of Congo’s government relations with China first visited China in 2003, he was impressed to find that the Chinese explicitly refer to “respect” as a concept that should guide all of their nation’s foreign relations.

      • Anthony

        You may be on to something in addition to ambition to be a great power.

    • hai_nguyen

      Chinese neighbors already discarded their belief of “peaceful rise” China, witnessing their invasions of Paracel islands (1974), cross-border (1979), Spratly islets (1988) against Vietnam, Mischief shoal (1998), Scarborough shoal (2012), various intrusions into India and provocations of Japanese sovereignty… Increased military upgrades by all regional, big and small nations have 1 aim: expansionist, criminal and lawless China. Before long, Xi’s Chinese Dream will be subdued not by the current hegemony US but, but by the people who know China the most: its neighbor.

      • Anthony

        You underscore my point and regional history you cite is well known to involved parties. Prior comment was rhetorical and historically prescriptive as you allude.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    And still the incompetent Obama does nothing to take advantage of the Chinese belligerence. China is unjustly threatening the borders of nearly every nation in the region, and the US could be making hay getting trade concessions in return for a military alliance along the lines of NATO in the region. It’s an abomination that this awesome opportunity is being lost because of the worst President in American history.

  • gabrielsyme

    Well, at least a shooting war in east Asia would be a sight more interesting than disputes over trade policy in the Ukraine.

    In the broader scheme of things, it’s interesting that China is essentially choosing confrontation in an area where it is uniquely isolated. If anyone wants to clip China’s wings while reinforcing an anti-China alliance there cannot be a better opportunity. The list of nations which have those two interests is long, and if China persists in these short-term territorial ambitions, someone might well take advantage of the opening.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service