By Wang Qi, Sina English
The South China Sea is the largest, deepest and richest in resources among the four water areas that belong to China. But when the strategic significance of the seabed resources here gets increasingly visible, the area has, since 1960s and 1970s, emerged as a hot spot, subject to neighboring countries' wrest and grab.
China has always adhered to the principle of “joint development while setting aside disputes” in terms of exploring the treasures staying down in the depth of the South China Sea. And China has also exercised restraint at its utmost in the event of disputes. However, China’s good is not always returned with good by its neighbors. So far, they have drilled 1,380 oil wells in the South China Sea, from which almost all the major oil companies across the world take a slice of the fat cake.
This has adverse impact on energy security in the vicinity of China’s waters. Data revealed by Xinhua News Agency suggest that China could stand a loss of one third of its total oil and gas if it were to be rid of resources in the South China Sea.
Therefore, the South China Sea cannot afford to become a "paradise of adventures". It is pressing and of strategic significance for China to strengthen sovereignty over its territorial waters by employing scientific strategy, in an effort to safeguard its maritime security. Thus, for China, a balanced control over both land and sea should be a future strategy.
According to a long-term analysis of US Energy Information Administration (EIA), oil consumption of developing countries in Asia will rise by three percent annually on average from now on to 2025. At such a speed, oil demand of those countries can jump from 15.10 million barrels a day in 2002 to 33.60 barrels a day in 2025.
Such desperate need of energy of neighboring countries drives the South China Sea to become a regional as well as a global flash point, now that the area, dubbed "the second Persian Gulf," boasts 41.8 billion tons of oil, 7.5539 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and a huge deposit of combustible ice at the sea floor.
In addition to traditional active countries in the area such as Japan, the United States and Russia, India has also attempted to join them so as to establish its own "berth." This was manifested by the zealous diplomatic interactivities between India and the regional countries. For instance, in October 11, 2011 when Vietnam's General Secretary of Central Committee of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong and its President Truong Tan Sang paid visits to China and India respectively, Vietnam and India signed a pact on joint exploration of offshore oil and gas, just a day after China and Vietnam signed a pact to "properly handle sea disputes between the two countries."
Such an arrangement revealed India's motives. And the reason why New Delhi insists on intervening in the troubled water regardless of China's objection seems evident: to shaowcase its determination to have a share of the spoils from the South China Sea.
Experts believed China’s passive response to the burning South China Sea is partially due to its comparatively gentle pace of its development there. China might never get any of the oil and gas resources in the disputed area if it were just to wait for a final solution to the disputes.
"On the South China Sea issue, we should eye not only the sovereignty, but also property rights. We need to protect both our national interests and practical economic interests,” goes the Chinese news magazine China Economic Weekly.
It's true that sovereignty should never be compromised for economic interests; but we must seek economic interests if disputes over sovereignty can be brushed aside temporarily.