Beijing's Goal: A New Normal
Image Credit: Wikicommons

Beijing's Goal: A New Normal


A Vietnamese friend asks how Southeast Asian governments should counter China’s doubling-down on its maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea. Late last week the Hainan provincial government enacted regulations that provide for boarding or even seizing ships that “illegally” enter Chinese-claimed waters or land on Chinese-claimed islands. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese fishing boats cut the cables on a Vietnamese vessel exploring for oil over the weekend. And of course Beijing has taken to printing a map in newly issued passports that includes the “nine-dashed line” enclosing most of the South China Sea. Commentators rightly speculated about where Hainan’s directive applies, what constitutes illegality in Chinese eyes, and how the new regimen will affect freedom of navigation through regional shipping lanes.

Whatever the particulars, this constitutes a clear effort to create a new normal. By acting as though it exercises jurisdiction over the islands and adjacent waters, Beijing surrounds its maritime territorial claims with an air of normalcy. Making and enforcing law to control territory is the essence of sovereignty. Left unchallenged, new facts on the ground will harden into a new status quo. What should Southeast Asians do? That’s a big question, but here’s one tip. They should start by thinking hard about what kind of behavior they want to reward and what kind they want to punish. Scant days before the Hainan government promulgated its regulations, the news broke that ASEAN governments intend to negotiate a regional trade bloc that also encompasses Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and … China.

This Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will exclude the United States, which has been pushing an eleven-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.That seems a tad perverse at a time when Southeast Asians look to America as their balancer of first resort against China, which wants to modify the regional order to their detriment. Why should Beijing desist from objectionable policies if it knows it will pay no price for them?

Note to ASEAN: unmix your messages.

January 9, 2014 at 11:42

I think it is wise to exclude the US, not because we don’t need their material support, we do, but because if they are included, China will take this a direct threat. By excluding the US for now, and China, ASEAN, and partners seek to balance the influence of both China and the US, after-all, Australia and India also have a large stake in how this unfolds.

January 19, 2013 at 23:28

Try reality. India just beside, Russia next door, US and rich EU nations all nuclear State. Anyone of them going to accept Hegemony from China even if they acheive technological parity and economic with the US? Sheer fantasy being afraid of China's Rise. Even today US overwhelmingly superior military and economy once they recover do you think Russia, India, China and EU today will just bark whenever the US tells them to? What makes you think if the situation is reversed the Rest will accept China Hegemony?
If you want to be afraid be afraid based on reality and track record. The US is far more a Warrior State and the main aggressor since the end of WW2.

Wisdoms Borrower
January 7, 2013 at 13:46

Excellent writing and analysis.

December 14, 2012 at 06:19

THe views of John Chan and Bankotsu were questionable back when they were first printed in Pravda in the 1970s. Now they're simply ridiculous.  

Filipino defender
December 11, 2012 at 21:26

Why should we we are not making problems here you are its only chinese who are insisting on this and that with all of its neigbours you have disputes with almost all of them so why should change for you while the majority of your neigbours wants to slap you in the face for going in and taking all like you owed there houses and don't even have the balls to got to an International forum which is the best way to solve this dispute.

December 11, 2012 at 18:40

@johnX:  I"m assuming you're talking to Frank as I cannot possibly imagine how you came to your conclusion based off my reply to Frank.  
@Frank:  Blowing too much wind, in this case 'hot', is never a good thing.  

Greg McCann
December 11, 2012 at 09:22

@Vic -offering up some excuses for China's various forms of piracy? And how about their new piracy on the South China Sea? I see you didn't bother addressing that in my post

December 11, 2012 at 04:46

Americans are not the stupid ones in this game. They are just trying to use small nations in South East Asia to drag China down. Americans do not really care about if these small nations are destroyed in the process.
Do you think Americans really care about Communist Vietnam?

December 11, 2012 at 04:40

China has clear laws to define what is "bad". There is nothing to worry if you just sail through the South China Sea. If you are trying to survey the sea to lay mines or hide your submarines, then you will be expelled. If you are trying to steal oil from the area, you will be expelled.
However, freedom of navigation for ALL in South China Sea had always been and will be ensured by China.

December 11, 2012 at 04:32

Ram it with ice breaker.

December 11, 2012 at 04:30

To Americans, it is a joke. Americans do not recognize it.

December 11, 2012 at 04:28

They cannot afford new ships. Uncle Sam has to buy the ships for them. However, Uncle Sam is also short in money.

John Chan
December 11, 2012 at 01:07

USA did proposed G2 few years ago; if China signed on to G2, then it proved China was no different from any other imperialists, and made its non-interference principle a mockery and it became a hypocrite.
China refused the American’s G2 idea. American saw its carrot did not work, so it turned to stick to rein in China, that’s those intense smear campaigns and pivoting to Asia all about.
Returning to G2 tells the American that only stick works for China, the result is not only China will not become a part of G2, American will focus on stick only to deal with China from now on until China returns to the dark age of unequal treaties. American does not become the world sole superpower, a predatory imperialist hegemon, for no reasons.

John Chan
December 11, 2012 at 00:37

How about Vietnam, even after independence the Vietnamese rather keep their alien script imposed on them by the French instead of returning to their own script they have used of thousands of years, would it constitute another example of the Mask of Asia, cargo-cult mentality or strong inclination to the former colonizer?
It is strange that the Vietnamese did not switch to English and get rid of that French style script, at least English has more practical value in the modern global free market economy, that French style script is a burden to the Vietnamese in the modern global economy.

John Chan
December 10, 2012 at 23:44

Indeed we need God on the side of humanity, and hope China is not going to walk the steps of the predatory imperialist West after it achieves its rise peacefully, and it still maintains its non-interference principle that treats all nations large and small as equal and with respect.

December 10, 2012 at 16:31

Don't do that, going to North America to contain.  You don't want to end up with the deficits; nobody could afford that.
Let them "deficit" themselves to a bottomless pit if they want to.  You destroy them without firing a shot.  Do it in a civilized fashion.

December 10, 2012 at 16:10

@Greg McCann
       In the heydays of British ships at sea, they used to plunder Spanish galleons for their treasures – this was called piracy.  Later, the British renamed their pirates as privateers, since they all had government sanction to plunder.
       Nowadays, if you use the image of Mickey Mouse without the approval of DisneyLand, it is called piracy.  Of course, this piracy is said to be stealing intellectual property.  Of course, if you sign the FTA with America, you agree not to steal or use their ideas; you got to pay for the ideas.  If you are a poor developing country like India, you got to pay for the generic drugs manufactured for the poor.
       If the FTA concept was introduced 180 years ago, we would be paying America for generating three-phase alternating current.  After all, it was invented by a guy called Tesla, a Croatian who migrated to the US.  Just as well Newton was not alive today to collect fees whenever we write the equation F=ma.  By American definition, we are all pirates (without having to plunder treasure ships) if we do not pay up whatever fees they want for ideas.

December 10, 2012 at 13:39

This is very obvious…CHINA is unstoppable now in claiming it! I wonder how China will be an IMPERIALIST one? GOD save us!

December 10, 2012 at 12:36

@Leonard R
No, it is more effective just to capture a Filipino naval vessel and sail it to Hainan to stand trial.

December 10, 2012 at 12:31

Correction.  The islands are Japanese administered islands, not formally Japanese territory.  Big difference.

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