Is China Inserting Itself Into the Taiwan-Philippines Spat?
Image Credit: Flickr/ Crouchy69

Is China Inserting Itself Into the Taiwan-Philippines Spat?


This week a Chinese warship and a couple of maritime agency vessels conducted a patrol in the areas of the Spratly Islands that the Philippines claims, prompting an official rebuke from Manila.

According to Philippines officials, at least three Chinese ships and 10 fishing boats were spotted near the Ayungin Shoal, which is part of the Spratly Islands and about 200 kms off the coast of the Philippine island of Palawan.

Briefing reporters this week, Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said, “We saw a frigate. We saw CMS (Chinese maritime surveillance) maritime ships. We have pictures and we have sent them to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). Based on [the photos] that I saw yesterday, there were two CMS and one frigate.”

Gazmin added that the presence of a Chinese military ship was “unusual.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs struck an even more defiant tone with a spokesperson from the department declaring, “They should not be there. They do not have the right to be there… no-one should doubt the resolve of the Filipino people to defend what is ours in that area.”

“Our Navy and our Coast Guard are mandated to enforce the laws of the (Philippine) republic,” Raul Hernandez, the spokesperson, added.

The Philippines stations a host of Marines on the Ayungin Shoal which is also called the Second Thomas Shoal. They operate from a WWII-era U.S. tank-landing vessel. Manila has said that its military was not deploying more ships to the area but that an unarmed, resupply ship is in route to replenish the deployed Marines.

The Philippines filed an official protest with the Chinese embassy in Manila, calling the ships deployment “provocative and illegal.” Beijing largely brushed aside the charges, restating its claims to sovereignty of the area.

Referring to the Spratlys by their Chinese name, a spokesperson from the China’s Foreign Ministry said: “China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters…. Patrols by Chinese official ships in the waters are justified.”

The Foreign Ministry also called on the parties of the South China Sea dispute to, “fully and earnestly” implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and seize taking actions that could “amplify or complicate the issue,” according to a report in the state-affiliated Global Times.

Although China and the Philippines have long contested sovereignty of the reefs and shoals in the Spratlys, the timing of the patrols suggest they may have been motivated by the recent spat between the Philippines and Taiwan, which China considers an integral part of China.

Last week a Philippine Coast Guard vessel fired on a Taiwanese fishing vessel, killing one of the crew members. The incident led to a full-blown diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Taiwan in which China has enthusiastically joined Taiwan in condemning the Philippines. 

China and Taiwan have analogous claims of sovereignty over waters in the East and South China Seas and Beijing has often used this fact to try and strengthen its ties with Taipei. In the East China Sea this strategy dates back to the 1970s, according to the global private intelligence firm Stratfor.

However, Beijing recently suffered a setback in this strategy when Taiwan reasserted its autonomy in handling sovereignty disputes by signing a fishing agreement with Japan. When the spat between Taiwan and the Philippines first developed last week, some observers speculated that Beijing would seek to use it to revive its strategy of tacitly cooperating with Taiwan in sovereignty disputes.

It’s unclear if the two events are related at all, however. The shooting of the Taiwanese fisherman took place near the Philippines’ northern island of Batanes, while the Chinese patrols occurred much further to the south. In this sense, the Chinese ships were patrolling areas much closer to the Scarborough Shoal that Beijing seized following a prolonged standoff with Manila in the waters in early 2012.

Moreover, the dispute between Taiwan and the Philippines appeared to be winding down about the time that Manila went public with the Chinese patrols, when Taipei announced it was allowing Manila to send an investigation team to review the evidence of the shooting incident.

In any case, the recent flare-ups with Taiwan and China have clearly rattled the Philippines, which announced on Tuesday that it will spend US$1.8 billion to beef up its defenses in order to “resist bullies” as President Benigno Aquino put it. 

May 31, 2013 at 08:38

JohnX wrote:

May 27, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Liang1a, I wish to state that at no time previously have you shown any convincing document that states that China controlled the ocean as as they controlled the land. In fact trade historically has been carried out mainly by coastal and Island states and China has never been either.


JohnX, I don't care if you think I have or have not proven China's sovereignty in the S. China Sea.  As far as I'm concerned, China's historical evidence is beyond dispute.  But I don't expect any of you will be convinced no matter how compelling China's evidence is.  Or at least you will never admit you are convinced even if you are actually convinced.  So who cares what you think and say.  The mistake made by Hu and Wen was that they were foolish enough to try to convince the like of you.  All China needs to do now is to use force to defend its sovereign territories and stop offering joint development which only gives credence to invaders such as you.

May 30, 2013 at 22:32

Check out all the news website from china.  All of them doesn't allow you to post feedbacks from readers.  They are afraid that their site will be filled with sensible discussion and views from users around the world. Example and… they are living in their own dream world carved by their dreaming leaders. is totally different.. They allow others to post their view, may it be positive or negative…  

May 30, 2013 at 09:13

The thing is, china can't force philippines out of their EEZ because he has nowhere to go. China's newly acquired power is starting with defenseless country but not with Russia when they killed the chinese pirates. China is so greedy!!!

Kim's Uncle
May 29, 2013 at 13:41

I think even level headed and reasonable Chinese consider the comments from Liang1 and admiral Cheng are comical. They are little kids of the regime with a lot time on their hands! They even admit that they will not willingly fight in any war for China! LOL. Maybe they are too important? LOL. Only Chinese peasants will die for Communist China while Liang1 and admiral Cheng have important task of defending Chinese interest on the Diplomat!

May 29, 2013 at 12:23

You might think you are capable to looking forward hundreds or thousand years from now; but, you're nothing short of a fool. At this point, the Philippines is better off with S. Korea and Japan as friends than Taiwan or China.

May 28, 2013 at 09:38

Flam wrote:

May 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I agree that China is unstoppable not only in terms of economics and military power but also in creating enemies near or far in backyard. I simply don’t believe that the world will bend over the desires of China nor believing entire SCS is their pond


There is no such thing as perpetual friends or enemies.  Only very naive people will seek to make perpetual friends.  China is better off relying on its own powerful military than on the loyalty of its uncertain friends.  It is suicidal to rely on the tender mercies of China's enemies.  Of course, out of common human goodness of heart, China would welcome the friendship of the world.  As it is, China has many "friends" all around the world.  Other than America and its stooges such as Philippines, Japan, and a few others, China has no enemies.  Even S. Korea wants to be China's friend and its president is planning a visit to China next month.

May 28, 2013 at 09:20


May 27, 2013 at 3:42 am

Dear Liang1a and admiral chen,

Unless you're serving as an actual soldier, sailor, or pilot in the PLA you really shouldn't advocate war without being willing to get out behind a keyboard and take on some US (or ASEAN) marines or sailors firsthand.

Liang's response:

Whichevergeorge, have you ever heard of the phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword"?  Substitute "keyboard" for pen and you got the idea.

Whichwaygeorge wrote:

In your dreams of Chinese Hegemony: How many of your own friends and family members are you willing to sacrifice for this dream? How many children must die and how many orphans must be created in order to slake you and your countrymen's bloodthirst? I'm really not trying to be facetious or insulting in this statement. Because you're essentially asking the rest of us in the free world to ask this same question of our own friends and family when it comes to stopping ChiCom Hegemony where they tried to claim Hawaii & California.

Liang's response:

Whichwaygeorge, you're not clever enough to fool anybody with this doublespeak.  America is the one seeking hegemony, not China.  America is the one encircling China with a ring of military bases and cultivating more allies to attack China all the time for the last 70 years.  America is the one who should ask how many Americans it is willing to sacrifice to maintain its status of unchallenged hegemon.  It had already lost tens of thousands in Korea and Vietnam.  It has lost thousands more in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Is it now willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands or even millions more to attack China?  You are forcing the rest of us in the sane world to ask the same thing when it comes to stopping the American aggressions in the E. China Sea, the S. China Sea, in Tibet, in Xinjiang, and in Zhangnan.  How many more widows and orphans are you prepared to make?  How polluted with nuclear fallout are you prepared to subject the world to? 

Whicheverwaygeorge wrote:

War does not come without cost. With several purple hearts & a couple of DSCs in my family I've seen firsthand the costs of war. I've almost lost my own brother at least twice and I saw how badly it affected my grandpa who served in WW2 for the rest of his life where the scars weren't always physical. He had to do some awful, awful things in order to survive the European Theatre.

Liang's response:

Whicheverwaygeorge, if you regret the harm wars did to your family then you're the one who should remember it is America who had fought all the wars.  Certainly, China is not taking the war to America.  It is America who is inciting wars all around China.  So pack up your hypocrisy and admit to yourself that you're the widow maker.  War is not without cost.  But in the defense of the motherland, whatever cost must be paid to maintain sovereignty because life under subjugation is not worth living.  It is good that China can now inflict unacceptable cost on the American warmongers and their stooges.

Whichgeorge wrote:

It's fitting that it's almost Memorial Day here in the US. Perhaps this article will be a fitting reading both sides have much to lose in a major war in the WestPac:

Liang's response:

And for the last time, if you want to avoid any deaths then pack up your military toys and go home!!!!!!!!!  Once America is out of the western Pacific, there will be peace on earth.  You're the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse bringing death and destruction.

May 27, 2013 at 20:11

Leonard wrote: "It's claim to the whole wide cean would be laughable if it had not taken the next step and seized the territory of a sovereign state. That is an act of war. and it will not go unanswered forever."


Well, I hope it doesn't go unanswered for ever as some of us in the Pacific are getting tired of watching the US standing on the sideline. Some times its easier to crush an acorn than it is to cut down an oak tree.

May 27, 2013 at 19:20

Liang1a, I wish to state that at no time previously have you shown any convincing document that states that China controlled the ocean as as they controlled the land. In fact trade historically has been carried out mainly by coastal and Island states and China has never been either.


Its a land based state and bases its strenght on its army not on its navy. The only claim that China has on the SCS has been made since the Maoists realized that they needed a navy as thier soldiers are useless as they cant swim and Taiwan is an Island..


Regardless of some so-called historical claim, let me remind you that your God 'Mao' is dead and its 27/5/2013 and the Chinese have never controlled those areas now claimed by the Philippines. It has only been possible to make those claims in the 20th/21st Century as no one of a right mind makes a claim over a reef that is close to 1000 kms from its shores especially one that is under water 12 hrs a day.


Not even the Chinese of old had that hubris. Though, regardless this message will fall on deaf ears, so let me just give you a warning. The message that comes through strong and clear through history about China is that thier greatest failures have occured due to hubris. This pride that there is nothing more to learn seems to be a failure of Chinese and may explain your beliefs.


But, if a war does break out and our two nations are drawn into a conflict then could you send me a photo of you? I don't want to kill a Chinese individual who is forced to fight a war that individuals like you have intentionally started. I want to make sure that the right person is targeted and to make sure its fair I will send you my photo at the time of recieving yours.


I have listened to people who have actually been in wars and while it takes years to get them to open up, the lesson that I have learnt is that war is not a benefit to humanity. Though, if I must defend my nation from Chinese expansionism, I wont hesitate.

May 27, 2013 at 14:39

You cannot liberate your means even using a force if the root of your cause is a big lie. Believing your cause is an insanity and using force is a sheer madness, this is just a propaganda of CPC you want to spread here.

May 27, 2013 at 14:30

I agree that China is unstoppable not only in terms of economics and military power but also in creating enemies near or far in backyard. I simply don’t believe that the world will bend over the desires of China nor believing entire SCS is their pond.

May 27, 2013 at 14:22

You got your delusions so severe because of intoxicating opium spreading in China. First no one ever believe in you that those islands in SCS within and overlapping EEZs of different countries this steps made by China is big insane. 9 dash line is a big don’t you know even you ask a grade school children if they would believe about then they would simply laugh because it is obviously crazy to own an entire sea because their ancestors used to fish for thousands of years. And all you’ve said is just a propaganda that PRC created for imperialistic approach.

May 27, 2013 at 14:04

Did I say that filipino coastguards should kill if someone illegally fishing within EEZ I will say it is big NO and may I tell that this incident is still udergoing investigation so don’t make false accusation to anyone here if you really don’t know what really happened.
And being christian is not an excuse for barbaric action as I believe but the way you say you inderctly accusing philippines are barbaric and china is clean even though she constantly sending military to those islands and shore for no one could interfere to grab and conquer them…do you think who is among them barbaric!?

May 27, 2013 at 12:49


May 27, 2013 at 5:58 am

Whichwaydidhegogeorge? wrote:

May 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

Is there ever a day where Liang1a doesn't mong (sic) for war?

Perhaps on weekends when he's not working here.


Liang's prior response:

I don't know what monging for war means. But I will always advocate using force to liberate Chinese sovereign territories currently being invaded and occupied by foreign thugs. Even on weekends.


Looking at this again, it is obvious whichwaygeorge meant "mongering".  And again, I don't monger for war.  I only advocate that China defend itself.  "Monger" means seller, dealer or promoter such as a fishmonger.  War is just like a gun.  In itself it is neither good nor bad.  Obviously, when attacked by thugs it is good to have a gun to defend yourself.  Therefore, as Shi Ma Art of War had taught, "to fight wars to stop wars, it is righteous to fight such wars."  (以战止战,其战可也。) Or as Mao had said, "if people don't transgress against me then I don't transgress against them, if people transgress against me then I will surely transgress against them."  (人不患我,我不患人;人若患我,我必患人。)If whichwaygeorge want to accuse me of mongering for wars of self-defense then I'm glad to say I absolutely will monger for defensive wars anytime anywhere because defensive wars are honorable and righteous.  Only cowards don't dare to fight when attacked.

May 27, 2013 at 08:21

Ahhh, we have the same old big talk from chinese posters such as take back this and that and eviction this and that. We are so scare and afraid of all the military power of china. NOT.


How about take back the 600 thousands square kilometers of land that Russia took it from china while it slaughtered chinese like sheeps in 1800s? How about do something about Russian Navy that shot to death several chinese and sunk chinese ships last year? What is the matter? Why the silent? Where are the big talk and big action? Please don't tell us readers around the world that china/chinese are afraid, right? If you do afraid, just say so, no need to hide.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief