How China Can Avoid Next Conflict (Page 2 of 2)

In the past, the Chinese response to exploration activities conducted by the other claimants in the South China Sea has been calibrated. It rhetorically denounced them for infringing on China’s territorial rights, but its actions were more restrained and differeniated. In fact, many claimants have ongoing oil and natural gas exploration and production activities close to their coastal waters in the Spratlys, but China hasn’t dispatched naval vessels to disrupt them so far.  (The June 9, 2010 incident in which a Chinese fishing boat damaged the survey cable of a Vietnamese research ship occurred in an area in the Spratlys far from Vietnamese shores.) By comparison, Chinese reaction to similar activities in the Paracels is much tougher. A few years ago, a Chinese patrol boat reportedly snipped the seismic survey cable of a research vessel owned by a Western firm, which had entered an agreement with Vietnam to conduct oil and gas exploration. 

Everything else being equal, the probability of another naval clash between China and Vietnam in the waters around the Paracels is much higher.

But Vietnam is no pushover. It may not have much of a navy, but it has repeatedly demonstrated that it isn’t afraid of China. To show Beijing that it is prepared for a fight, Hanoi has ordered six Kilo-class Russian submarines (which will enter service in a few years). Diplomatically, Vietnam has also played its card skilfully. Its ties with the United States have improved dramatically, with the two former foes holding their first joint naval exercise in the South China Sea in August last year.

Whether Washington’s new posture on the South China Sea and improved US-Vietnamese relations have emboldened Hanoi to confront Beijing is anybody’s guess. What matters for Beijing now is how to avoid another possible clash with Vietnam in the Paracels. With Hanoi announcing a live-fire exercise in this area for June 13, the risks of an accidental conflict are real.

Of the two protagonists, China needs to seize the moral high ground first, since international opinion tends to favour the weaker party in such disputes. For a start, China should temporarily suspend its patrol activities in the disputed areas to avoid any possible accidental conflict. Beijing should also offer specific proposals to Hanoi on how to avoid similar confrontations in the future. For instance, imposing a temporary moratorium on exploration activities by both sides in the disputed waters should calm the nerves.

These ad hoc measures must be followed up by more intense diplomatic initiatives that will help forge a multilateral solution to the South China Sea disputes. The Sino-Vietnamese row may have created a crisis, but it also provides a unique opportunity for China and ASEAN to accelerate the negotiation for a stronger code of conduct. Some in China may view signing such a code of conduct as needlessly constraining Beijing’s options. But for a country whose intentions and growing military capabilities have unnerved its neighbours, this may be one of the few realistic gestures to make its declaration of ‘peaceful development, credible.

Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and adjunct senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Comments
257
Nathan
July 3, 2011 at 01:47

China has no solid historical evidences on the Paracels and no ground on the UNCLOS 82 principle, that is why China acting pirate-like activities on the South China Sea.

Look at China economy and military nowadays, no nation within ASEAN would dare to uptake its legal territories. Only China is doing the other way around.

Warmonger
July 3, 2011 at 01:29

It’s not the problem of brave or coward. It’s problem of right or wrong. You can’t just storm in your neibour’s house and take every thing and call yourself brave yet. Right!.

Nathan
July 3, 2011 at 01:29

The basis you mentioned should put in reverse, the claims from China are all facetious and essentially absurd instead. China invaded and occupies Paracels and part of Spratlys till now. China has no solid historical evidences what so ever, that is why it tries to avoid multi-lateral dialogues and does not want to take up the issues to UN.

In reality, China is acting cowardly instead as it’s not weak compare to ASEAN’s countries. In term of generosity, what have China done to help the world so far?

Observer
June 30, 2011 at 21:13

We don’t cae who you are but at least get your facts straight.

Vietnam was invaded and colonized many times by the invading hordes from China for several thousands year yet still managed to beat back those barbarians.

Hopefully, Chinese won’t die because of China leaders with inferior complex.

Do tell us how well China fought with competent military forces such as Mongolia, Britain, Japan, even with little Vietnam? What were the result?

Observer
June 30, 2011 at 21:08

@ Liang1a – you said “China has sovereignty over the disputed areas. This is established fact for hundreds if not thousands of years.”

LOL, so you and your Chinese propaganda mouthpieces say so and it is fact? Let see those “establish facts” and “historic evidences”. Let see some articles and stories from independence sources to back up your statements.

Oh, China also has about 135 million of its own people that live in extreme poverty. That is more than the population of Philippines or Vietnam.

FACTS: China NEVER has any sovereignty in South China Sea by any standards.

FACTS: China WAS/IS/WILL be the invader and bully of Vietnam for several thousands years.

Get your stories straight and then get back here and debate.

phatbac
June 30, 2011 at 16:57

He’s a Chinese Vietnamese, indeed!

Davis
June 30, 2011 at 16:53

The big problem with china is it has NO domestic consumption market! china must rely completely on the US & EU markets for its exports! Without these markets, china’s ecomomy will collapse immediately! That’s the point! Don’t you know that?!

Liang1a
June 30, 2011 at 15:02

China has sovereignty over the disputed areas. This is established fact for hundreds if not thousands of years. Obviously Vietnam can benefit from the oil money. But it cannot take what rightfully belongs to China no matter how much Vietnam needs it.

China and Vietnam have a common culture for thousands of years. Unfortunately, many Vietnamese have some kind of hatred for the Chinese which I cannot understand especially since China had helped Vietnam so much during its war against the US.

My recommendation to the Vietnamese is to get out of the sovereign territories of China immediately. Then we can talk about help for the development of Vietnam. The Vietnamese people must remember that Singapore, Taiwan, S. Korea and Japan all have little or no oil or any other resources. Yet they are among the richest countries in the world. So Vietnam does not need oil to prosper. What it needs is peace and help from China to develop its own internal economy through education and increases of productivity of its workers. Even if Vietnam can get $100 billion of oil money per year that is only $1,000 per Vietnamese per year. And then oil will run out in 30 years or so and then there is nothing left. If Vietnam hasn’t developed then it will sink back to poverty again. On the other hand if Vietnam develops its internal economy to the same level as Singapore or Taiwan then it could continue to give its people $20,000 to $30,000 per year forever. And $1,000 per year of oil money does not make much difference to incomes of $30,000.

Frank
June 30, 2011 at 08:54

Thanks for thinking that I am a Vietnamese. Actually, there is not that much of difference between Vietnamese and Chinese. Vietnam was part of China. All these problems are caused by the separation of Vietnam from the motherland.

I am sure there will be somebody in Vietnam may be my relatives, although I do not know their names and where they live.

I hope nobody dies because of the stupidity of Vietnam Communists.

VietCom will get all the people in Vietnam killed.

Liang1a
June 30, 2011 at 06:38

The basis for Vietnam and the Philippines to claim sovereignty over Nansha Islands are all facetious and essentially absurd. It demeans China to dignify them with any kind of serious answer. It is a clear sign of animosity for Japan and the West to support the claims of Vietnam and the Philippines when they are clearly totally without credibility. China must stop allowing itself to be manipulated. It should act with dignity and honor and courageously take back what is rightfully its. China has made a very sincere effort to share its oil wealth with Vietnam and the Philippines when it has absolutely no obligation to do so. Unfortunately, China’s effort at generosity has emboldened Vietnam and the Philippines to think China is weak and cowardly. They had spurned China’s generous offer of joint development. Therefore, it is time for China to rescind its offer of joint development and move resolutely and expeditiously to take back what are rightfully its own sovereign territories.

Liang1a
June 29, 2011 at 18:09

The presumption of the world is still that China needs the West and Japan. But that is no longer true. Japan is economically dead and the US is teetering. China on the other hand can sustainably grow for the next 30 years until it is fully developed by developing its own internal economy. China can develop an economy of 200,000 yuan per capita GNP which would amount to 300 trillion yuan based on a population of 1.5 billion. At 3 yuan per dollar in PPP valuation, China’s GNP would be equivalent to $100 trillion. Which is bigger than 5 times of the US economy and twice as big as the economies of the US, Eu, and Japan combined. China’s economy can develop by advancing its indigenous technologies and the urbanization of the farmers and thereby grow sustainably without doing much foreign trade. At the same time China needs to shift its foreign trade to exporting high tech products to and import raw materials from developing countries. Therefore, China no longer needs to trade with Japan and the West. China’s supercomputers are superior to Japan’s and the West’s. China’s high speed trains are superior to Japan’s and the West’s. And as more Chinese scientist and engineers start to do R&D for China’s technological advancement its indigenous high technologies will undoubtedly advance by leaps and bounds and overtake the Japanese and the Western technologies. I’m sure this is very threatening to Japan and the West. But time has changed and they should just get used to it. After all they are only feeling what the Chinese had felt for the last couple hundred of years.

As to the S. China Sea dispute, it is China who has the sovereignty over the disputed areas in Nansha Archipelago and Xisha A. Vietnam’s claim is that it had “discovered” Nansha A. in 17th Century and also it had received it from France through succession. This is nonsense because China had discovered S. China Sea islands as long ago as the 3rd Century B.C. And France never had sovereignty since China had sovereignty ever since the Tang Dynasty.

And Philippines’ basis for its claim of sovereignty is that a Filipino by the name of Tomas Cloma discovered Nansha A. in 1956 and took possession of the islands therein. If anybody thought this is credible basis then China would be foolish to try to convince them and seek their support.

Of course, Japan and the West and other enemies of China will support Vietnam and the Philippines But who cares? In the end there is really no point for China to be nice to its enemies. The “friendship” had been maintained by China kowtowing to its enemies and give them free gifts in the form of cheap exports. But China should now throw them off its shoulders and stop carrying them.

nam
June 29, 2011 at 10:48

You must be a Vietnamese because you seem to know the Vietnam history well. How can you say that to your own country. If Chinese goes to war with Vietnam, I hope your relatives in Vietnam die first.

YeuNuoi
June 29, 2011 at 02:22

Thank you for a civilized comment. I haven’t seen this type of comment for a long time. No more wars please.

the southeastasian
June 28, 2011 at 20:31

Very good comments! ” Historic evidences” haven been shown that the most peaceful way to improve the robots like John Chan, Frank would be the Culture Revolution II.

hahaha
June 28, 2011 at 08:24

Breaking news!..
The news just in, China was successfully invented a new kind of weapons, programmed robots that can blog, chat online. Unfortunately the programmed robots are not advanced enough yet. Right now robots seems not able to know/undestand what is right from wrong, just one way thinking and often due to glitches they can say things that we are not sure if it is stupid or crazy. But “historical evidences” show that the chinese will imrpove their programmed robots in a peaceful way..

Frank
June 28, 2011 at 07:26

Communist Vietnam occupied Cambodia’s Phu Quoc Island. China should help Cambodia to get island back.

Communist Vietnam also occupied the homeland of Hmong (Miao) people. China should also help Hmong to get their land back.

Other than arms race, China should be actively seeking ways to destroy Vietnam without a direct war.

michael
June 24, 2011 at 12:07

I do like your comment, Frank! As long as Vietnam is a communist state it would be easily to be destroy by China. Since the communist party took the advantages over the national movement to win the war against France and US, it now became the worst terant against it’s own people. China can not harm Vietnam as much as the vietnamese communist party itself.

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