China Bashes Western “meddling” Over South China Sea

Posted August 15th, 2012 at 8:17 pm (UTC+0)

U.S. Warns Against “Divide-and-Conquer” approach

China is lashing out at accusations that it’s blocking the Association of Southeast Asian Nations from settling rival territorial claims in the South China Sea. According to Beijing, ASEAN’s failure to agree on a code of conduct over the maritime dispute was caused by Western “meddling” designed to “smear China’s positive role in maintaining the unity of the regional bloc.”

ASEAN foreign ministers met last month in Phnom Penh, but failed to issue a joint communique for the first time in the group’s 45-year history. There was talk that the conference host, Cambodia, had blocked agreement because China prefers to deal one-on-one with rival claimants Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Now China’s official Xinhau news agency is rejecting that accusation and denouncing a Reuters news agency analysis that Beijing is “keeping ASEAN splintered” to “suit its strategy on the South China Sea.”

Stoking mistrust and unity?

The Chinese news agency says Western media are “stoking mistrust and enmity between China and its close neighbors” and fail to recognize that China “has a major stake in safeguarding peace and stability in the region.”

Xinhua says what is really blocking ASEAN unity is “the meddling of some Western countries that are betting on a divided Asia. They loathe to see Asia’s incredible economic vitality while their economies are waning, as is their influence in the world.”

“To see its neighbors at loggerheads with each other, undermining the political and economic power of the involved countries, would be the last thing that Beijing wants,” Xinhua says.

China and its neighbors in the region assert rival territorial claims over the South China Sea. Beijing’s claims are within the red lines, above..

The United States, for one, sees things differently. Asked if she agrees with China’s portrayal of what happened at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says, “Absolutely not.”

“Our view of what happened is that the ASEAN countries themselves appreciate what a crucial issue it is for them individually and for them collectively to handle this dispute in the South China Sea in a manner that protects their larger security interests,” Nuland says, “that they came at it from different perspectives, and rather than whitewashing that problem and having a weak communiqué that didn’t say much, they chose to continue to talk about it.”

Xinhua’s denunciation of what it calls outside interference that is “doomed to failure” follows Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi’s trip to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, during which he said ASEAN must not lose sight of its broader goals.

“We believe the peace, stability and development in East Asia is our common aspiration,” Yang says. “In the context of a complicated international situation, we need to maintain regional peace and stability, promote mutual trust, and boost economic growth.”

“I think it is the call and desire of the people of all countries in this region,” he says. “Therefore, I believe leaders across the region will follow the public demands and make their own efforts.”

Yang says ASEAN countries value their friendship with China as the bloc has become Beijing’s third-largest trading partner.

Justin Logan, the director of foreign policy studies at the U.S. Cato Institute, says Chinese contracts remain a lucrative incentive for ASEAN members, especially those without claims to the South China Sea.

“I think the chances for a code of conduct that meant something, at the outset, were low,” Logan says. “I think that what this might do is create a clearer distinction between ASEAN countries and their position on China.”


Divide and conquer

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, pictured here when she was U.S. representative to NATO, says multilateral talks are the best approach to addressing rival claims in the South China Sea. Photo: AP

Nuland says dividing ASEAN is not the solution.

“An effort to divide and conquer and end up with a competitive situation among the different claimants is not going to get where we need to go,” Nuland says. “If bilateral diplomacy can be supportive of an ultimate, multilateral framework, then that will be fine; but we don’t think that cutting deals with these countries individually is going to work, let alone be the expedient way or the best way under international law to get this done.”

But Xinhua says to accuse China of splitting countries over the South China Sea is “blatantly ignoring ASEAN’s commitment to cooperation. It also is seriously underestimating ASEAN members’ firm will to bar any foreign interference that would hamper peace and prosperity in one of the world’s most dynamic regions.”

China has become increasingly assertive in claiming nearly all of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and which is believed to hold vast energy deposits.

Xinhua says the South China Sea “which lies almost at the center of the regional map, should become a spot that ties the region together, not one that pulls it apart.”

“Any outside attempt to take advantage of minor differences of interests between each country would prove fruitless and could only draw derision from” ASEAN, it says.

During talks in Jakarta, Foreign Minister Yang meet with his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, who has emerged as a leading mediator over the South China Sea.

Natalegawa told reporters that “the issue was discussed principally in a private setting and so I have no wish, and no right, in a way, to provide the detail of my discussion. But what I can assure colleagues is that diplomacy is very much on track.”




8 responses to “China Bashes Western “meddling” Over South China Sea”

  1. […] Scott Stearns Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tagged: ASEAN, China, China expansionism, Paracel, South China Sea, Spratly Posted in: Economy, Politics ← Heineken, ThaiBev locked in beer brawl Be the first to start a conversation […]

  2. cris says:

    China “The Great Pretender” will find ways on how cause ASEAN to be divided in order to continue bullying those weaker claimant states. China worries that if ASEAN achieves its goal by 2015, those claimant states can have more support from other members. China’s thinking is very wrong because that’s not the main reason why ASEAN existed. It clearly shows how China has become irresponsible when it comes to leading the world. Thanks to Western nations and America for criticizing China’s arrogant behavior.

  3. […] China Bashes Western “meddling” Over South China SeaVoice of America (blog)Now China's official Xinhau news agency is rejecting that accusation and denouncing a Reuters news agency analysis that Beijing is “keeping ASEAN splintered” to “suit its strategy on the South China Sea.” Stoking mistrust and unity? The Chinese news …US is right to assail China on its South China Sea claimsWashington PostCooler Heads on the South China Sea?Council on Foreign Relations (blog)America's clumsy South China Sea statementCNN (blog)Huffington Postall 187 news articles » […]

  4. laulankay says:

    Why do those countries that had records of conquering China and occupying China territories keep on criticizing China for being arrogant and increasing its military budget.
    Is it because they have realized that it is not easy for them to bully China anymore. I would say that U.S is ‘The Great pretender’ instead of China.

    • Han Chinese says:

      Actually, China is the “Great Pretender”. Most of the Chinese commenters from different website where news items touched the South China Sea issue follow the politburo’s line of thinking. There are three narratives that the Chinese government are giving the Chinese people, like me, and the international readers in general. (1) “Victimhood Narrative”. China tells the whole world that China and the Chinese people were victims of abuses from European Colonial powers during the past centuries. Since China is now the 2nd rich country in the whole world, it is only right for the Chinese, like me, to get “Angry” (even though I haven’t been abused by Westerners). (2) “Salvation Narrative”. China is now intruding marine and land territories that belong to sovereign states because China has been a victim of abuses before, it is only right for China to occupy those territories and pass it on as “core national interest” based on dubious “historical maps”. (3) “Interference Narrative”. If a western military power (i.e. USA or GBR or France, or Canada) reacts to the expansionist move by China, it is only right for the Chinese government to give a western military power a “dressing down” and pass it on as interference in the internal affairs of the Chinese government.

      Nobody is bullying China because if China has been bullied China would not get rich and reached its present economic powerhouse status. Remember that USA gave China a “Most Favoured Nation” status in terms of trade and allows China to get rich as a nation.

    • Tia Nanmensquare says:

      China as we know it today did not really exist 50-60 years ago. China was for a very very long time just a ragtag collection of noisy fiefdoms controlled by blood-thirsty warlords who were intent on killing one another. This is why it’s not easy trying to swallow the People’s Republic of China’s very recent argument that the resource-rich islands and shoals, that the PRC are now trying to wrestle away from other countries, are historically theirs: the Senkaku Islands, the Spratleys, Scarborough Shoals, etc.

      It is actually quite ridiculous then when weaker nations ask for international help against PRC aggression over these territories, that the PRC propaganda machine immediately bashes Western countries for their so-called “meddling” into the PRC’s internal affairs.

      The PRC only quite recently, in the past 20 or so years, have been able to economically and militarily bully or bribe smaller countries into considering these so called historical claims. Just because someone from the Chinese mainland drew a map of an area does not mean the PRC has valid and legal rights to that area. Rome had maps of territories that it actually occupied centuries ago but that does not mean that the Vatican can go claim them as theirs today.

      There are international laws and procedures to settle these disputes, as long winded and complicated as they may be.

      If the PRC truly believes that it has valid claims to the disputed territories (and yes, they are disputed territories–the PRC does not have “undisputed sovereignty” over them as the PRC’s Propaganda Department wants everyone to believe) then the PRC should state their case and have the issue resolved by the United Nations.

      The PRC cannot claim “undisputed sovereignty over these islands and shoals without expecting any international backlash.

      Even now in certain countries that have experienced PRC bullying, there are grass-roots calls to boycott products that are made in China.

      They have recognized that every dollar spent on products that are made in the PRC will only contribute to the manufacture of more Chinese bullets, gunships, rockets and missiles that might be used against them if push ever comes to shove over these disputed territories.

      If the PRC continues its tactics of proclaiming its desire for peace and stability in Asia yet does not follow international laws and procedures to settle territorial disputes, this call for a boycott on PRC-made products might spread around the globe.

      It might become the last peaceful way for people worldwide to remind the PRC that if it wants to be respected, it needs to respect other countries just as much.

  5. Chan Phan says:

    China claims that her ancestors discovered the islands a couple of thousands years ago, and therefore the islands are theirs. So, what will China claim next? Northern Vietnam, too? Ironically, the latter claim is probably more “provable” and acceptable to the Vietnamese. But even then, the Vietnamese will fight to the death to protect her homeland.And this, my frieds, is the fact.

  6. Mike says:

    Each of the countries in question should start drilling for oil today. No waiting. Just drill. China would then be forced to attack or backdown. An attack would cause ASEAN countries as well as the U.S. and perhaps E.U. to limit or stop trade with China. Then see who would howl!

Scott Stearns

Scott Stearns

Scott Stearns is VOA’s State Department correspondent. He has worked as VOA’s Dakar Bureau Chief, White House correspondent, and Nairobi Bureau Chief since beginning his career as a freelance reporter in the Liberian civil war. He has written for the BBC, UPI, the Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post, and The Economist. Scott has a Bachelors and Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University.



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