China Power

China to US: South China Sea Recon ‘Irresponsible and Dangerous’

Plus, a landmark court case in China and a treasure trove of historical Chinese documents. Friday China links.

China to US: South China Sea Recon ‘Irresponsible and Dangerous’
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Darren Koch

It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for your China links roundup:

It should come as no surprise to our readers that China was not happy by the a U.S. P8-A surveillance plane flying over a Chinese-controlled reef in the South China Sea – particularly as the U.S. had invited CNN on board to record the whole encounter. When asked about the incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said that Chinese soldiers “acted upon the rules and asked the aircraft to leave through radio.” Hong added that such U.S. surveillance “is irresponsible and dangerous and detrimental to regional peace and stability.” He warned that such operations are “highly likely to cause miscalculation, or even untoward maritime and aerial incidents.”

As if often the case, a commentary from China’s state news agency, Xinhua, went even further in conveying China’s displeasure. The piece accused the United States of giving “threatening signals in an attempt to overbear China to stop its legal construction activities in its own territory.” Rather than preserving freedom of navigation, as the U.S. claims, Xinhua argues that continued U.S. military patrols “may further lead to miscalculation and misinterpretation and deteriorate the situation in the sea.”

Elsewhere, former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson add to the growing debate on how to fix U.S.-China relations with an article for The Atlantic. Rubin and Paulson, two former U.S. treasury secretaries, are writing (understandably) from a purely economic perspective, arguing that it’s in each country’s best interests to take seriously the critiques of its counterpart. After all, both countries only stand to benefit from tweaks that strengthen their respective economies, and Rubin and Paulson have suggestions for doing that. Outside of the economic realm, Rubin and Paulson’s general argument – that “the two countries have largely been engaged in a dialogue of the deaf” – is equally applicable to broader strategic issues in the relationship. The United States and China often trade formalistic barbs without bothering to actually consider or even understand each other’s criticisms.

In Chinese domestic news, a crucial test for both China’s “war on pollution” and its push for rule of law is unfolding in Fujian province. For the first time, a Chinese court is hearing a case brought by citizen environmental groups, in this case Friends of Nature and Fujian Green Home, against a firm, seeking restitution for environmental damage. China Daily explained how the new Environmental Protection Law, which allows certain NGOs to file public-interest lawsuits against polluting firms, could be a game-changer for China’s “war on pollution.”  Wall Street Journal notes that this particular case is being watched closely by other environmental NGOs – they may base their own decisions about whether or not to pursue legal action on the outcome of the Fujian case.

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Finally, school may be out for the summer, but if you want some educational material to keep you busy for the next three months (and beyond), check out the Wilson Center Digital Archive’s Chinese Foreign Policy Database.  Containing thousands of documents from 1945-2000, the database is an amazing collection of primary sources on Chinese foreign policy thinking. The Digital Archives also have separate collections of various aspects of Chinese foreign policy, like this collection of documents related to China-North Korea relations.